Breakthrough in understanding lung cancer vulnerabilities points the way to new targeted therapy

More effective treatments for one of the deadliest forms of cancer are one step closer thanks to groundbreaking research from an international collaborative study.

Scientists from the Universities of Sheffield and Cologne have identified the dependencies of multiple Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) types – paving the way for clinical trials of new targeted treatments which could revolutionise the current approach.

Around 40,000 people are diagnosed annually with lung cancer in the UK, and SCLC accounts for nearly one in five of all these cases.

Unfortunately, the prognosis for SCLC patients is very bleak – two thirds of people are diagnosed in the late stages of the disease when the five year survival rate with current treatments is less than five per cent.

But now researchers have discovered that survival of SCLC cells grown from human tumours relies upon a protein called Aurora kinase. This finding, published today in the journal Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), suggests that 'targeted' therapeutic strategies should focus on testing Aurora kinase inhibitors, several of which have already been developed by pharmaceutical companies.

The team also went on to show that Aurora kinase inhibitors are most effective at killing SCLC cells when the cells have high levels of the MYC . This predicts that these drugs might be most beneficial for SCLC patients with a MYC , which is found in up to seven per cent of people diagnosed with SCLC.

Dr Patrick Eyers, from the University of Sheffield's Institute for , said: "A major goal of modern cancer research is to discover drugs that vulnerabilities in specific sub-populations. Current chemotherapy for SCLC kills and non-cancerous cells indiscriminately and results in severe side effects.

"However, revolutionary clinical trials have recently validated 'molecularly targeted' kinase inhibitors for treating cancers such as melanoma, leukaemia and non-small cell lung cancer.

"We have been studying Aurora kinase inhibitors for several years, and the remarkable vulnerability of some SCLC-derived cells to such drugs can hopefully be rapidly confirmed by careful stratification of SCLC patients and their enrolment in new clinical trials."

Related Stories

A new approach to cancer treatment published

Oct 10, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Scientists have discovered a mechanism that causes an aggressive type of lung cancer to re-grow following chemotherapy, offering hope for new therapies.

Recommended for you

New breast cancer imaging method promising

1 hour ago

The new PAMmography method for imaging breast cancer developed by the University of Twente's MIRA research institute and the Medisch Spectrum Twente hospital appears to be a promising new method that could ...

Palliation is rarely a topic in studies on advanced cancer

1 hour ago

End-of-life aspects, the corresponding terminology, and the relevance of palliation in advanced cancer are often not considered in publications on randomized controlled trials (RCTs). This is the result of an analysis by ...

Breast cancer replicates brain development process

1 hour ago

New research led by a scientist at the University of York reveals that a process that forms a key element in the development of the nervous system may also play a pivotal role in the spread of breast cancer.

Is genetic instability the key to beating cancer?

3 hours ago

Cancerous tumors may be poised at the edge of their own destruction, an insight that could help researchers find new, more effective treatments, suggest SFI External Professor Ricard Solé and colleagues in an April 9 paper ...

Phase 3 study may be game-changer for acute myeloid leukemia

7 hours ago

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers say clinical trials for a new experimental drug to treat acute myeloid leukemia (AML) are very promising. Patients treated with CPX-351, a combination of the chemotherapeutic drugs cytarabine ...

User comments