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

October 1, 2012

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."

Explore further: Chemotherapy effective for patients with resected SCLC or large-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma

Related Stories

Chemotherapy effective for patients with resected SCLC or large-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma

June 15, 2012
Research presented in the July 2012 issue of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer's (IASLC) Journal of Thoracic Oncology, concluded that patients with limited large cell neuroendocrine tumors or with ...

A new approach to cancer treatment published

October 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

African Americans face highest risk for multiple myeloma yet underrepresented in research

November 23, 2017
Though African-American men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, most scientific research on the disease has been based on people of European descent, according to a study ...

Encouraging oxygen's assault on iron may offer new way to kill lung cancer cells

November 22, 2017
Blocking the action of a key protein frees oxygen to damage iron-dependent proteins in lung and breast cancer cells, slowing their growth and making them easier to kill. This is the implication of a study led by researchers ...

One-size treatment for blood cancer probably doesn't fit all, researchers say

November 22, 2017
Though African-American men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with a blood cancer called multiple myeloma, most scientific research on the disease has been based on people of European descent, according to a study ...

One in four U.S. seniors with cancer has had it before

November 22, 2017
(HealthDay)—For a quarter of American seniors, a cancer diagnosis signals the return of an old foe, new research shows.

Combination immunotherapy targets cancer resistance

November 22, 2017
Cancer immunotherapy drugs have had notable but limited success because in many cases, tumors develop resistance to treatment. But researchers at Yale and Stanford have identified an experimental antibody that overcomes this ...

Researchers discover specific tumor environment that triggers cells to metastasize

November 21, 2017
A team of bioengineers and bioinformaticians at the University of California San Diego have discovered how the environment surrounding a tumor can trigger metastatic behavior in cancer cells. Specifically, when tumor cells ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.