The study was published online in Nature Medicine on March 18.
If the drug combination does override TKI resistance in people, this will be good news for those with the BIM gene variant, which occurs in about 15 percent of the typical East Asian population. By contrast, no people of European or African ancestry were found to have this gene variant.
"While it's interesting to learn about this ethnic difference for the mutation, the greater significance of the finding is that the same principle may apply for other populations," said Patrick Casey, Ph.D., senior vice dean for research at Duke-NUS and James B. Duke Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology. "There may well be other, yet to be discovered gene variations that account for drug resistance in different world populations. These findings underscore the importance of learning all we can about cancer pathways, mutations, and treatments that work for different types of individuals. This is how we can personalize cancer treatment and, ultimately, control cancer."
"We estimate that about 14,000 newly diagnosed East Asian CML and EGFR non-small-cell lung cancer patients per year will carry the gene variant," Ong said. "Notably, EGFR NSCLC is much more common in East Asia, and accounts for about 50 percent of all non-small-cell lung cancers in East Asia, compared to only 10 percent in the West."
The researchers found that drug resistance occurred because of impaired production of BH3-containing forms of the BIM protein. They confirmed that restoring BIM gene function with the BH3 drugs worked to overcome TKI resistance in both types of cancer.
"BH3-mimetic drugs are already being studied in clinical trials in combination
|Contact: Mary Jane Gore|
Duke University Medical Center