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Combo therapies tested to overcome drug resistance in melanoma patients
Date:8/2/2011

the same gene. However, Lo determined that was not the case, an important finding because it means that second-generation drugs targeting BRAF would not work and therefore should not be developed, saving precious time and money.

Lo and his team spent two years studying tissue taken from patients who become resistant to try to determine the mechanisms that helped the cancer evade the inhibitors. In the lab, they also developed drug resistant cell lines, in collaboration with another UCLA lab headed by Dr. Antoni Ribas, also a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher. There are still other mechanisms of resistance in melanoma patients with mutated BRAF who are treated with BRAF inhibitors, which UCLA researchers are seeking to uncover and that may provide even more targets for drug therapy. Cancer operates similarly to a criminal seeking to evade his captors, and the small molecule inhibitors are like the police barricades that seek to block escape. When one of the cell signaling pathways driving resistance is blocked, the cancer finds a way to activate another pathway that will drive its growth. If that pathway is blocked, yet another pathway may be activated. The goal is to find a way to block all the pathways helping the cancer evade therapy at once so the cancer cells die before finding a way around the drugs.

In the lab, Lo and his team would apply one drug at a time to the resistant cancer cells and see what route or pathway the cancer used to escape. They then determined what pathway was being used to evade therapy and found an inhibitor for that. In the end, the researchers identified the most optimal combination of molecules to block the pathways PI3K, mTORC and MEK.

"Normal cells have physiologic safety mechanisms to avert death and this is taken to a higher level by the cancer cell to serve its growth agenda, making single agent targeted therapy insufficient," Lo said. "We have to block several roads, which is what is behind our appro
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Contact: Kim Irwin
kirwin@mednet.ucla.edu
310-206-2805
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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