APR 21, 2015 11:21 AM PDT

New Drug Combination Shows Promise for Breaking Breast Cancer Resistance

WRITTEN BY: Ilene Schneider
Researchers from The University of Manchester working with drug development company Evgen Pharma, have developed a new combination of drugs which could overcome treatment resistance and relapse in breast cancer.
In the most common type of breast cancer, affecting 70 percent of patients, the drug Sulforadex helps overcome resistance to routinely used hormonal treatments by targeting the cancer stem cell population.
In research revealed at the American Association of Cancer Research annual conference on Monday, the researchers show that in the most common type of breast cancer, affecting 70 percent of patients, the drug Sulforadex helps overcome resistance to routinely used hormonal treatments by targeting the cancer stem cell population.

While most women initially respond well to hormonal treatment with drugs such as tamoxifen, many go on to develop resistance and relapse. There is evidence that this is often due to activation of the Wnt signalling pathway, a gene involved in development which fuels the growth of the tumor.

Around 70 percent of breast cancers express the ‘estrogen receptor' (ER) and typical treatment focuses on reducing estrogen levels or blocking ER function. However, the researchers have shown that cancer stem cells which cause tumors to regrow and spread do not express the ER. Thus, these stem cells aren't inhibited by the standard treatments and have the ability to regrow the tumor.

The new combination therapy, tested in lab studies by the Manchester scientists, combines Evgen's Wnt pathway-suppressing drug, Sulforadex with standard hormonal treatments. This targets both the estrogen-sensitive cells and the remaining cancer stem cells at the same time.

Dr Robert Clarke from the University's Institute of Cancer Sciences said: "The hormonal therapies we use today are very good at treating breast cancer tumors driven by estrogen.
"However, they don't completely solve the problem. This combination of drugs potentially allows us to target estrogen-sensitive cells, whilst also mopping up the cells which cause treatment resistance."

The study was carried out in lab samples of treatment resistant cells from breast cancer patients. The next step will be to recruit patients for a trial in the next few months.

Dr David Howat, Head of Research and Development at Evgen Pharma said: "We are really excited about the data presented at the AACR. Dr Rob Clarke and his excellent research team have demonstrated the efficacy of Sulforadex in patient derived cancer tissues in vitro and, importantly, in an in vivo setting.

"We now intend to extend this collaboration and advance Sulforadex into a clinical trial with breast cancer patients."

Source: University of Manchester
About the Author
  • Ilene Schneider is the owner of Schneider the Writer, a firm that provides communications for health care, high technology and service enterprises. Her specialties include public relations, media relations, advertising, journalistic writing, editing, grant writing and corporate creativity consulting services. Prior to starting her own business in 1985, Ilene was editor of the Cleveland edition of TV Guide, associate editor of School Product News (Penton Publishing) and senior public relations representative at Beckman Instruments, Inc. She was profiled in a book, How to Open and Operate a Home-Based Writing Business and listed in Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in Advertising and Who's Who in Media and Communications. She was the recipient of the Women in Communications, Inc. Clarion Award in advertising. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ilene and her family have lived in Irvine, California, since 1978.
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