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

Understanding cell segregation mechanisms that help prevent cancer spread

July 26, 2017
Scientists have uncovered how cells are kept in the right place as the body develops, which may shed light on what causes invasive cancer cells to migrate.

Study may explain failure of retinoic acid trials against breast cancer

July 25, 2017
Estrogen-positive breast cancers are often treated with anti-estrogen therapies. But about half of these cancers contain a subpopulation of cells marked by the protein cytokeratin 5 (CK5), which resists treatment—and breast ...

Physical activity could combat fatigue, cognitive decline in cancer survivors

July 25, 2017
A new study indicates that cancer patients and survivors have a ready weapon against fatigue and "chemo brain": a brisk walk.

Breaking the genetic resistance of lung cancer and melanoma

July 25, 2017
Researchers from Monash University and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC, New York) have discovered why some cancers – particularly lung cancer and melanoma – are able to quickly develop deadly resistance ...

New therapeutic approach for difficult-to-treat subtype of ovarian cancer identified

July 24, 2017
A potential new therapeutic strategy for a difficult-to-treat form of ovarian cancer has been discovered by Wistar scientists. The findings were published online in Nature Cell Biology.

Immune cells the missing ingredient in new bladder cancer treatment

July 24, 2017
New research offers a possible explanation for why a new type of cancer treatment hasn't been working as expected against bladder cancer.

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.