According to the National Cancer Institute, lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death for both men and women in the U.S. More specifically, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) encompasses 85% of all lung cancers.
Investigators seeking new treatment options for patients of lung cancer have found a combination of drugs that are effective for NSCLC specifically. These drugs target epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF), the targeting works to effectively inhibit the cancer from using TNF as way to escape and allowing the cancer to be sensitive to the EGFR treatment.
"There has been a tremendous effort over the past several years to block EGFR as a treatment for lung cancer, but this therapy only works in a small subset of patients. The cancer fights back with a bypass pathway," explains lead researcher Dr. Amyn Habib with the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern as well as a staff physician at the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "Blocking both of these proteins could be a treatment that is beneficial for the majority of lung cancer patients.” These research findings stem from the same combination of drug treatments that were found to be successful in a glioblastoma mouse model.
Furthermore, these anti-EGFR/TNF two-strategy drugs were found to be well tolerated and with few side effects which was because they worked to target specific molecules within cancer cells. Thus, anti-EGFR/TNF drugs are more advantageous than traditional chemotherapeutic treatments which have unpleasant side-effects on a patient.
Investigators will continue their research for a phase 2 clinical trial of using the two-drug strategy; which has already been approved by the FDA. The prospective clinical studies are being planned to test the two-drug treatment in lung cancer patients as well as glioblastomas. "If this strategy is effective, then it might be broadly applicable not only against lung cancer but also against other cancers that express EGFR, which include brain, colon, and head and neck cancers," says lead clinical studies leader Dr. Gerber, an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Sciences.
Until recently, EGFR inhibitors were studied to be effective at treating a small percentage of non-small cell lung cancers that have a variant form of EGFR. However, with two-drug strategy, treatment could be effective for all forms of non-small cell lung cancers.
The research was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.