JUL 16, 2019 07:32 AM PDT

Combining Breast and Lung Cancer Drugs to Overcome Treatment Resistance

WRITTEN BY: Julia Travers

The efforts to overcome cancer’s ability to evolve and resist treatment take many forms and comprise a vital and active branch of contemporary cancer research. A new study finds that combining two drugs -- one typically used for breast cancer and one used for lung cancer -- is a more effective way to overcome cancer’s resistance to treatment in several types of cancer cells studied in the laboratory. The work was carried out by scientists at the University College London (UCL) Cancer Institute and the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London. Exploring how drug combinations can stop cancers from adapting to drugs is a core ICR mission.

The two drugs studied were the breast cancer drug palbociclib and the lung cancer drug crizotinib. Palbociclib is one of several drugs given to patients with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. The combined treatment was significantly more successful than either drug on its own in treating cancer cells in the lab or human cancer cells grown in mice. Together, the pair of medicines blocked cancer cell division and also induced senescence, a condition in which cells are “thought to stop growing and dividing” but do not die, EurekAlert explains.

chest anatomy illustration

"We have shown the potential of combining two precision medicines for breast and lung cancer together to create a two-pronged attack that strips cancer cells of their resistance. We still need to do more work to understand the full potential of combination treatment to increase the effectiveness of these drugs, but the approach looks highly promising and has the potential to be effective against several cancer types,” study co-leader professor Paul Workman, ICR chief executive, said.

Study co-lead Sibylle Mittnacht, professor of Molecular Cancer Biology at UCL Cancer Institute, said the research showed current medicines could be employed to diminish cancer’s treatment resistance in a common form of breast cancer, and also that the combination “could be a new, promising route for the treatment of lung and several other cancers." Naturally, one of the first steps in any effort to bring these potential benefits to patients will be evaluating the safety and effectiveness of combining these types of drugs.

“Signalling involving MET and FAK supports cell division independent of the activity of the cell cycle-regulating CDK4/6 kinases,” was published in July of 2019 in the journal Oncogene.

Article source: EurekAlert

About the Author
  • Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher. She frequently covers science, tech and conservation.
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