New drug combo offers promise for hard-to-treat cancers

Washington: Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have identified a new combination of targeted therapies that may treat two aggressive tumor types that until now have not had effective treatments.

The drug combination was shown to successfully treat two models of aggressive cancers - a nervous system tumor associated with neurofibromatosis type 1, and KRAS-mutant lung cancer, a form of lung cancer that accounts for about 25 percent of all lung cancers.

“Without a targeted treatment that works, these two cancers are currently being treated with chemotherapy with variable success,” said lead author Dr. Karen Cichowski, Associate Professor in Genetics at BWH.

“By identifying a more effective targeted treatment, the outcome and survival rate for these cancers may see a drastic improvement, and patients may avoid the typical side-effects of chemotherapy,” she added.

Cichowski and her colleagues took the approach of combining two targeted agents, one the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin, which suppressed tumor growth, along with the HSP90 inhibitor IPI-504, which triggers a specific kind of stress in cancer cells.

Together, but not alone, these drugs promoted dramatic tumor regression in these two distinct cancers in mice.

These studies have inspired the testing of a drug combination that is now in a Phase I clinical trial, specifically in KRAS-mutant lung cancer.

“The identification of this promising therapeutic combination sets the stage for developing other combinations and may also prove effective in other cancers through further research,” said Dr. Cichowski.

The findings are published in the September 13, 2011 issue of Cancer Cell.


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