New drug target can break down cancer's barrier against treatment

July 27, 2014, Cancer Research UK

Cancer research UK scientists at Barts Cancer Institute have found that targeting a molecule in blood vessels can make cancer therapy significantly more effective, according to research published in Nature.

The team at Barts Cancer Institute, part of Queen Mary University of London, have found that a molecule, called focal adhesion kinase (FAK), signals the body to repair itself after chemotherapy or radiotherapy, which kill by damaging DNA. When the researchers removed FAK from blood vessels that grew in melanoma or lung models, both chemotherapy and radiation therapies were far more effective in killing the tumours.

The researchers also studied samples taken from lymphoma patients. Those with low levels of FAK in their blood vessels were more likely to have complete remission following treatment. This suggests that developing drugs to strike out FAK in cancer blood vessels may boost cancer treatments and prevent cancer from coming back.

Dr Bernardo Tavora, lead author on the paper from the Barts Cancer Institute, said: "This work shows that sensitivity to cancer treatment is related to our own body mistakenly trying to shield the cancer from cell-killing effects caused by radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

"Although taking out FAK from blood vessels won't destroy the cancer by itself, it can remove the barrier cancer uses to protect itself from treatment."

Cells lining the blood vessels send chemical signals, called cytokines, to the tumour to help it resist DNA damage and to recover. The researchers demonstrated that this process requires FAK in order to work, and without it, these signals are never sent – making the tumour more vulnerable to DNA damaging therapy.

Dr Kat Arney, Cancer Research UK's science communications manager, said: "This exciting research may have cracked how healthy cells in the are protecting against cancer treatments. This research was only done in mice, but it gives real hope that we can boost the effectiveness of cancer medicine and sensitise cancers to the drugs we have."

Explore further: Finding the Achilles' Heel of ovarian tumor growth

More information: Tavora et al. Endothelial-FAK targeting sensitises tumours to DNA-damaging therapy. Nature 2014. DOI: 10.1038/nature13541

Related Stories

Finding the Achilles' Heel of ovarian tumor growth

June 19, 2014
A team of scientists, led by principal investigator David D. Schlaepfer, PhD, professor in the Department of Reproductive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report that small molecule inhibitors ...

Viral therapy could boost limb-saving cancer treatment

July 22, 2014
Viruses designed to target and kill cancer cells could boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy to the arms and legs and help avoid amputation, a new study reports.

FAK helps tumor cells enter the bloodstream

January 20, 2014
Cancer cells have something that every prisoner longs for—a master key that allows them to escape. A study in The Journal of Cell Biology describes how a protein that promotes tumor growth also enables cancer cells to use ...

Starving pancreatic cancer before it has a chance to feast

June 23, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Pancreatic cancer's low survival rate gives researchers from The University of Kansas Cancer Center even more reason to find a way to prevent and treat the hard-to-detect cancer. Drs. Snigdha Banerjee, ...

Cancer therapy may be too targeted

March 16, 2014
Researchers have identified two novel cancer genes that are associated with the development of a rare, highly aggressive, cancer of blood vessels. These genes may now act as markers for future treatments and explain why narrowly ...

Wake-up call for more research into cell metabolism

July 9, 2014
More scientific research into the metabolism of stromal support cells and immune cells – and the role of the metabolism of these cell types in the development of diseases – could open new therapeutic avenues for diabetes, ...

Recommended for you

Research team discovers drug compound that stops cancer cells from spreading

June 22, 2018
Fighting cancer means killing cancer cells. However, oncologists know that it's also important to halt the movement of cancer cells before they spread throughout the body. New research, published today in the journal Nature ...

Dying cancer cells make remaining glioblastoma cells more aggressive and therapy-resistant

June 21, 2018
A surprising form of cell-to-cell communication in glioblastoma promotes global changes in recipient cells, including aggressiveness, motility, and resistance to radiation or chemotherapy.

Existing treatment could be used for common 'untreatable' form of lung cancer

June 21, 2018
A cancer treatment already approved for use in certain types of cancer has been found to block cell growth in a common form of lung cancer for which there is currently no specific treatment available.

Novel therapy makes oxidative stress deadly to cancer

June 21, 2018
Oxidative stress can help tumors thrive, but one way novel cancer treatments work is by pushing levels to the point where it instead helps them die, scientists report.

Higher body fat linked to lower breast cancer risk in younger women

June 21, 2018
While obesity has been shown to increase breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women, a large-scale study co-led by a University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher found the opposite is true ...

Researchers uncover new target to stop cancer growth

June 21, 2018
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have discovered that a protein called Munc13-4 helps cancer cells secrete large numbers of exosomes—tiny, membrane-bound packages containing proteins and RNAs that stimulate ...

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.