Sonveaux noted that hypoxic cells are particularly resistant to all forms of anticancer therapies, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy. But after blocking MCT1, radiation killed most of the cancerous cells, he said.
The findings were published in the current issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Tumor cells cooperate to produce energy, Sonveaux said. "This cooperation can be corrupted therapeutically to destroy the most hard-to-kill cancer cells. This approach is unique and has the potential to cure cancer in combination with radiotherapy. It has also the potential to be applicable to a wide range of human tumors, after the development of a drug compatible with human use," he said.
Drugs that block MCT1 are in development, but clinical trials using this approach are at least several years away, Sonveaux said.
Dr. Margaret K. Offermann, the American Cancer Society's deputy national vice president for research, thinks this finding could lead to new strategies in treating cancer.
"This study explains differences between several types of cancer cells that could potentially be exploited to enhance treatment," Offermann said. "How effective it's going to be is hard to know," she said.
For more on cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.
SOURCES: Pierre Sonveaux, Ph.D., associate professor, University of Louvain Medical School, Brussels, Belgium; Margaret K. Offermann, M.D., Ph.D., deputy national vice president for research, American Cancer Society, Atlanta; November 2008, The Journal of Clinical Investigation
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