Most tumors are rife with activated immune cells, says Coussens, but their role in the development of cancer has been largely overlooked.
The findings may lead to more successful treatment of certain solid tumors by combining chemotherapy with drugs that can thwart cancer-promoting activities of the immune system, according to Coussens. For instance, the drug Rituxan has relatively few side effects, she adds.
As a result of the molecular discovery, Coussens is collaborating with pharmaceutical industry experts to explore new therapeutic strategies. Preclinical testing of the combination approach is underway involving therapies similar to Rituxan and chemotherapy, and initial results "look promising,'' says Coussens.
At UCSF, the Coussens lab focuses on the role of inflammatory cells and leukocyte proteases as critical regulators of skin, lung and breast cancer development. During the early development of cancer, many physiological processes occur in the vicinity of young tumor cells that are similar to processes that occur during embryonic development and to healing of wounds in adult tissue.
By studying mouse models of skin, lung and breast cancer development, the Coussens lab is identifying important molecules involved in regulating tumor-associated inflammation, angiogenesis, and cancer development. Identification of these important regulatory mechanisms reveals drug-targets that can then be used to design novel therapeutic strategies for treating cancer development in humans.
Biochemical and cellular studies during the past decade have shown that inflammation can promote the development of cancer. In addition, certain chronic inflammatory conditions, such as Crohn's disease, pancreatitis, prostatitis, asbestosis and Barrett's esophagus, are associated with an elevated cancer risk.
Discoveries over the last
|Contact: Elizabeth Fernandez|
University of California - San Francisco