New drug shows promise in ability to fight rare type of breast cancer

March 8, 2013 by Ann Manser, University of Delaware
Kenneth van Golen and doctoral student Madhura Joglekar have reported promising results in early tests of a drug to fight inflammatory breast cancer.

Researchers in the University of Delaware's Department of Biological Sciences are investigating a new drug that has shown positive results in early tests of its ability to fight a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer.

A small, of the drug found that (IBC) tumors in mice—which grew to four times their original size in a 10-day period if untreated—remained stable in size when treated with the drug. When a small amount of a traditional chemotherapy drug, which has limited effectiveness in IBC, was combined with the new drug, the number of was cut in half.

"It's a nontoxic drug, it's inexpensive, and it's easy to administer," said Kenneth L. van Golen, associate professor of and a senior research scientist with the Helen F. Graham at Christiana Care. "To me, it looks like a home run."

Van Golen specializes in IBC research, and the new drug was first brought to his attention by doctoral student Madhura Joglekar. She had read about a small pharmaceutical company in Texas that had developed it to treat . But she realized that it was designed to target those tumors in the same kind of way that might be effective with IBC tumors. Specifically, the targets the platelet-derived growth factor receptor.

IBC is relatively rare, uses a different pathway in which it spreads, or metastasizes, and is much more deadly than the common form of . Receptors in the typical form of the disease are on the outside of the cell, but in IBC they are on the inside, making them harder to target for treatment.

"This new drug targets and we already knew that's a good approach for IBC," Joglekar said. She brought the studies to van Golen, who contacted manufacturer Arog Pharmaceuticals, and was given the go-ahead to work with the drug, which already is in clinical trials with gastrointestinal .

In Joglekar's studies with mice, she and van Golen were especially encouraged by the way the drug seems to significantly increase the effectiveness of the usual chemotherapy. This compound effect, van Golen said, might mean that IBC patients could undergo less extensive chemotherapy, with resulting fewer side effects, than they do now.

Because IBC is highly aggressive, current treatments of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are generally intensive and harsh. The disease is systemic, spreading rapidly through the lymphatic system, and is often misdiagnosed at first because it resembles an infection more than a traditional form of breast cancer.

That's another reason to be optimistic about the new drug, van Golen said: Because it appears to be so nontoxic, it could be given to a patient, along with an antibiotic, even before the diagnosis is certain, with no harm done if the condition turns out to be merely an infection. But if IBC were later diagnosed, the crucial early cancer treatment would have started without delay.

Joglekar presented the results of the research at an international IBC conference in December, where it received a great deal of positive notice, van Golen said. If preclinical studies continue to produce promising results, he estimated that the drug could be used in Phase 3 clinical trials (the final phase before a drug is usually approved for general use) in two to three years.

Meanwhile, Joglekar said she hopes to conduct longer-term studies on the drug's effects on IBC tumors and on the way it seems to sensitize cells in those tumors to chemotherapy, making that treatment more effective, and also to explore exactly how the drug works at the molecular level.

In addition to investigating its interaction with , van Golen plans to study whether it could also augment the effects of radiation treatment.

"I think this drug is a real winner," he said. "We just need to learn more about how to use it."

Explore further: Quantum dots deliver vitamin D to tumors for possible inflammatory breast cancer treatment

Related Stories

Quantum dots deliver vitamin D to tumors for possible inflammatory breast cancer treatment

February 1, 2013
The shortened daylight of a Maine winter may make for long, dark nights – but it has shone a light on a novel experimental approach to fighting inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), an especially deadly form of breast cancer.

Researchers develop novel 3-D culture system for inflammatory breast cancer

December 9, 2012
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a very rare and aggressive disease that progresses rapidly and is associated with a very low survival rate. To understand how this type of cancer spreads, it's crucial to characterize the ...

Metastatic breast cancer hitches a free ride from the immune system

February 10, 2012
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is the most lethal form of breast cancer . It spreads easily through the lymphatic and blood vessels, forming metastasis which can lead to multi-organ failure. New research published in BioMed ...

Recommended for you

Boosting cancer therapy with cross-dressed immune cells

January 22, 2018
Researchers at EPFL have created artificial molecules that can help the immune system to recognize and attack cancer tumors. The study is published in Nature Methods.

Workouts may boost life span after breast cancer

January 22, 2018
(HealthDay)—Longer survival after breast cancer may be as simple as staying fit, new research shows.

Cancer patients who tell their life story find more peace, less depression

January 22, 2018
Fifteen years ago, University of Wisconsin–Madison researcher Meg Wise began interviewing cancer patients nearing the end of life about how they were living with their diagnosis. She was surprised to find that many asked ...

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...


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.