JUL 09, 2018 05:46 PM PDT

Scientists Found a New Way to Treat Lung Cancer

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an aggressive type that can be fatal; there are few treatments for the disease and it has an abysmal five-year survival rate of only five percent. Now scientists at the Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) have identified a vulnerability in SCLC that can be exploited as a target - with existing drugs. This work has been reported in Cell Metabolism and is outlined in the following video.

Cells that are cancerous have aberrations in their metabolism that enables them to rapidly grow and spread in the body. Some of those malignant cells become extremely dependent, practically addicted, to those altered metabolic pathways. They also offer researchers a pathway to new treatments. 

"SCLC metabolism has not previously been studied in-depth," said Dr. Ralph DeBerardinis, Professor at CRI and Director of CRI's Genetic and Metabolic Disease Program. "If we identify the metabolic pathways SCLC uses to grow and spread, then maybe we can find drugs to inhibit them. This could effectively cut off the fuel supply to these tumors."

For this work, the scientists assessed metabolic and genetic data from cells taken from human SCLC patients. That research revealed that there are two groups of SCLC, which are defined by the expression levels of two genes that are related to the formation and proliferation of cancer - MYC and ASCL1. 
 
The researchers found that lung cancer connected to MYC can promote the production of molecules called purines. They are critical to the production of RNA and DNA, two vital kinds of genetic material that are necessary for the growth and division of cells. One particular kind of purine, guanosine, is especially important to cells that express the MYC gene. 
 
"We were excited to discover that purine synthesis was so important for this subset of SCLC cells. There are already safe and effective inhibitors of guanosine synthesis used in patients for other diseases besides cancer. Our findings suggested that mice with MYC-expressing SCLC might benefit from treatment with drugs that inhibit purine synthesis," explained the first author of this work, Dr. Fang Huang, a visiting scholar at CRI.

Various mouse models of SCLC was used to investigate that hypothesis. The researchers exposed the mice to a drug called mizoribine, which can halt the synthesis of purine. Exposed mice that were expressing the MYC gene in SCLC had an extended lifespan after drug treatment and tumor growth was suppressed in those animals.

"Our findings suggest purine synthesis inhibitors could be effective in SCLC patients whose tumors have high levels of MYC. If we are right, this could quickly provide a new treatment for this disease, which has few options at present," concluded Dr. DeBerardinis.


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via UT Southwestern, Cell Metabolism 

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
OCT 22, 2018
Neuroscience
OCT 22, 2018
Brain encodes food preference decisions
Expanding ventral pallidum, a basal ganglia structures role in reward-related decision making....
NOV 05, 2018
Immunology
NOV 05, 2018
Amino Acid Helps to Promote T cells
Scientists at Vanderbilt show that the amino acid glutamine can contribute to a subset of T cell function and activation...
NOV 19, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 19, 2018
Revealing an Unexpected Role for RNA in DNA Repair
When both strands of DNA break, it must be repaired or the cell will die....
NOV 26, 2018
Neuroscience
NOV 26, 2018
Behavior Predicting Neural Code Identified
Perceptual choice behavior, taking action based on the information received from the senses is often described by mathematical models...
DEC 04, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 04, 2018
The All-you-can-eat Gene?
Many people dream of being able to eat the foods they want without having to worry about weight gain. New research shows it may one day be possible....
DEC 07, 2018
Microbiology
DEC 07, 2018
Epigenetic Inheritance is Revealed in Archaea
Researchers may have found a great new way to study tags that are added to the genome, which change how genes are expressed....
Loading Comments...