Scientists have discovered a mechanism which they claim causes an aggressive type of lung cancer to re-grow following chemotherapy thus offering hope for new therapies.
An international team from Monash, Stanford and John Hopkins universities, says that the discovery represents not just the potential for new drugs but also a novel way of
approaching cancer treatment.
Team member Prof Neil Watkins of Monash University said while many current cancer treatments focus on shrinking existing tumours, this research had a different focus.
“Some aggressive types of cancer respond very well to chemotherapy, but then the real challenge is to stop the tumour coming back. That`s what we investigated,” he said.
Between 15 and 20 per cent of lung cancer cases are an extremely aggressive type known as small cell lung cancer (SCLC) that usually responds well to chemotherapy, but regrows and is then less responsive to the treatment, says the team.
The study showed that the regrowth of SCLC cells could be blocked by a drug that targets growth signals, which, in healthy cells, control organ development and repair.
Prof Watkins said that blocking the signalling pathway, known as “Hedgehog”, could form basis of new SCLC treatments.
“This discovery gives us important clues for designingnew treatment approaches. By using drugs to inhibit the Hedgehog signalling, we should be able to increase the
effectiveness of chemotherapy and reduce the risk of cancer relapse,” he said.
The findings have been published in the `Nature Medicine` journal.