New finding could ‘pause and rewind’ lung cancer

    Researchers have found a way to block and reverse lung cancer. Walter & Eliza Institute of medical research.
    (L-R) Dr Clare Weeden and Dr Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat. Walter & Eliza Hall Institute photo.

    A team of Australian researchers has found a way of blocking the growth of lung cancer and reversing the damage in what could be a major medical breakthrough.

    The study found that two BH3-mimetics and one FGFR inhibitor were able to block lung cancer cell survival so successfully in pre-clinical models that tumours not only stopped growing, they began to shrink away.

    The research, led by Dr Clare Weeden, Ms Casey Ah-Cann and Dr Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, was published in Oncogene.

    The findings:

    •    A new study has revealed how to block the growth of lung cancer in pre-clinical models.

    •    The tumours not only stopped growing, they began to shrink away.

    •    The ability to shrink tumours means patients could live longer, healthier lives, with fewer symptoms from their cancer.

    Cancer is a disease arising from abnormal cells that have distinguishing traits known to scientists as ‘hallmarks’.

    Hallmarks can also be understood as different ‘pathways’ that lead to tumours being able to form and thrive.

    Dr Weeden said it was an exciting moment when the team realised they had targeted and disrupted two hallmarks of lung cancer survival known as the ‘cell death’ and ‘cell growth’ pathways.

    “It was amazing to discover how vital the ‘cell death’ and ‘cell growth’ pathways were for lung cancer cell survival, and on top of that, how these pathways could be blocked to stop the spread of cancer.

    “Using three potent compounds – two BH3-mimetics and one FGFR inhibitor – we were able to block key parts of the pathways called FGFR, BCL-XL and MCL-1 so successfully that the tumours not only stopped growing, they began shrinking,” Dr Weeden said.

    Ms Ah-Cann said the ability to shrink tumours meant patients could live longer, healthier lives, with fewer symptoms from their cancer.

    Ms. Casey Ah-Cann – one of the top researchers.

    “Our findings bring researchers closer to being able to develop targeted drugs that give lung cancer patients back their quality of life and hopefully even eliminate their cancer for good.

    “The next step in our research is working to develop new drugs that can block these molecules safely and effectively in patients,” she said.

    Dr Weeden said studies like these demonstrated how important it was to understand how lung cancer formed. “The more we can disrupt the pathways that cause lung cancer, the closer we will be to developing better, targeted treatments for the leading cause of cancer death in Australia.”

    Credit Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of medical research.

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