NFCR Scientists Webster Cavenee, Ph.D., and Frank Furnari, Ph.D., along with their team at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, have recently discovered one way that brain tumors manage to escape an attack launched by certain “smart drugs” designed to stop tumor growth. This breakthrough discovery revealed a new cellular mechanism that could be used to develop a more effective treatment strategy for malignant gliomas, the most common type of primary brain tumors.
Bethesda, MD (PRWEB) January 28, 2010 -- National Foundation for Cancer Research Scientists Webster Cavenee, Ph.D., and Frank Furnari, Ph.D., along with their team at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, have recently discovered one way that brain tumors manage to escape an attack launched by certain “smart drugs” designed to stop tumor growth. This breakthrough discovery revealed a new cellular mechanism that could be used to develop a more effective treatment strategy for malignant gliomas, the most common type of primary brain tumors.
Scientists have long searched for a new way to treat malignant gliomas, which are difficult to treat with traditional therapies, such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. In recent years, new treatments have been developed to improve a patient’s treatment outcome, but these treatments are less effective when used to treat malignant gliomas. These new treatments, called targeted therapies, target tumor-specific molecules in the body. Yet, when used on malignant gliomas, the results are disappointing. For instance, some “smart drugs” are designed to hit a tumor target called Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR). However, these smart drugs do not benefit patients with malignant gliomas as much as expected because the tumors resist the drugs and eventually come back, even through their aggressive progress may be halted temporarily.
In a research paper published in January 2010 in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Drs. Cavenee, Furnari, and their collaborators discovered that gliomas can still grow aggressively even after the function of the key tumor-supporting molecule EGFR has been blocked. This result means the tumors somehow are able to develop an “escape path” which enables them to bypass their dependence on EGFR for continued growth. Using cutting-edge research tools and novel experimental models, NFCR researchers identified a unique gene in glioma cells, KLHDC8A or SDE1, which is believed to be the molecule that enables the gliomas to escape the attack of EGFR-targeting drugs and continue to grow through an alternative molecular pathway.
“This is a very important and promising result in cancer research,” said Dr. Michael Wang, Chief Science Officer of NFCR. “When we understand how brain tumors escape the treatment effect of EGFR inhibitors, strategies can be developed to block the escape routes within the cancer cell and stop the cancer’s growth.”
“These new findings about the function of KLHDC8A/SDE1 opened the door for us to do further research on this unique gene, which would be a reasonable target for gliomas,” said Dr. Cavenee. “If we can block the escape pathway, plus hit the key target EGFR at the same time, the tumor will have less chance of survival, and we may see a much better therapeutic response in glioma patients.”
“Once again, this provides yet another example of the benefits of how investing in basic science research can lead to the cures for cancer,” said Franklin C. Salisbury, Jr., President of the National Foundation for Cancer Research.
About the National Foundation for Cancer Research
The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) is a leading cancer research charity dedicated to funding cancer research and public education relating to cancer prevention, earlier diagnosis, better treatments and, ultimately, a cure for cancer. NFCR promotes and facilitates collaboration among scientists to accelerate the pace of discovery from bench to bedside. NFCR is committed to Research for a Cure – cures for all types of cancer. For more information, visit www.NFCR.org, or call (800) 321-CURE (2873).
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