BOSTON--The ability to make, test, and map the atomic structure of new anti-cancer agents has enabled a team of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists to discover a compound capable of halting a common type of drug-resistant lung cancer.
In a study to be published in the December 24/31 issue of the journal Nature, the researchers report that non-small cell lung cancers that had become invulnerable to the drugs Iressa and Tarceva were stymied by a compound designed and formulated in a Dana-Farber lab. The compound, whose basic chemical framework is different from that of other cancer drugs, acts against a protein known as an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) kinase that carries a specific structural defect.
"This type of drug discovery, in which an agent is developed for a specific gene or protein target, and then screened against cancer cells as well as in laboratory models, is rare in academic medicine," says the study's senior author Pasi A. Jnne, MD,PhD, of Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH). "This requires contributions from researchers in multiple disciplines and a coordinated approach to planning experiments and sharing results. That we accomplished this is evidence of the contribution academic medical centers can make to the quest for new cancer treatments."
The study also illustrates how rapidly lung cancer research and treatment are advancing. It was less than five years ago that investigators at Dana-Farber and elsewhere traced some non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) to mutations in the EGFR gene and discovered that Iressa and Tarceva slowed such tumors' growth by targeting the abnormal EGFR protein. While the discovery has extended the lives of thousands of NSCLC patients around the world, EGFR blockers are only temporarily effective: after about eight months of treatment, the tumors begin to grow back. And because the drugs target normal EGFR protein as well as abnormal, many patien
|Contact: Bill Schaller|
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute