Thursday, September 08, 2011

Clue Found for Cancer Drug Resistance

A study of Science Translational Medicine shows a chemical reaction went into overdrive as conflict developed. Scientists said drugs were already on the market which interferes with the process. Cancer Research UK said the field offered "tremendous optimism". Researchers said “An international team of researchers were investigating the cancer drug cetuximab, which is used to treat colorectal cancer, head and neck cancers and some lung cancers.”

It targets a protein - epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) - which drives tumour growth. They said "all patients will ultimately develop resistance to cetuximab" but that little was known about how the resistance developed.Dr Pasi Janne, from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said: "ERBB2 activates a critical signalling pathway that is not normally blocked by cetuximab, and in this way subverts cetuximab's function.

"Because ERBB2 isn't affected by cetuximab, this is an easy way for cancers to become resistant to the drug."

The researchers said several drugs which target ERBB2 had already been approved so "the findings from the current study can be used to design potential clinical therapies".

However, they caution that there are likely to be other ways that cancers can develop resistance.

Henry Scowcroft, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "Unfortunately, patients' tumours can become resistant to treatment, and understanding why this happens is a major challenge in cancer research.