Doctors have long known that certain cancer patients respond better to particular drug therapies. Now researchers have devised a new way to match cancer treatments with an individual tumor by assessing key genetic features of the cell.
The technique, developed by the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, assesses which enzymes — known as kinases — are “acting up” in a particular tumor and then targets those cells with individual or multiple drugs known as “kinase inhibitors” that are effective against them.
"We have a small but effective inventory of 'druggable' mutations that we know play a role in cancer,” explained Chandan Kumar-Sinha, a research assistant professor at the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology.
“As we are doing more sequencing, we're coming to realize just how small that inventory is. On the one hand, it's a limitation. On the other hand, there are numerous [cancer-related] kinases, and there are a lot of kinase inhibitors. Our goal is to determine how to match more of these therapies with the right patients."
For the study, published online in the journal Cancer Discovery, researchers examined 482 samples of breast and pancreatic cancer tissues, as well as healthy non-cancerous samples, and identified the most active tumor enzymes.
In breast cancer, the researchers identified specific tumor profiles that would make the cancer drug Herceptin an effective treatment. In the pancreatic cancer samples, the researchers also found several different kinases that have drugs that work against them.
Although the laboratory findings must still be tested in patients, the researchers said the technique is promising and could greatly boost the effectiveness of some tailor-made cancer therapies.
The study was funded, in part, by the National Cancer Institute and the Department of Defense.
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