Tags: Cancer | cancer | drugs | targeted | tumors

New Cancer Treatment Outsmarts Drug-Resistant Tumors

Thursday, 13 November 2014 04:25 PM

By directly screening patient cancer cells, researchers have created a new way to identify potential treatments to effectively attack drug-resistant tumors.
 
While the screening system has only been used on tumor cells in a dish and in mice, the method could someday lead to individualized drug treatment strategies that adapt even as a patient’s tumor changes.

“The results have been promising enough where we are looking to see if we can develop this now to direct patient treatments,” said Jeffrey Engelman, a medical oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and co-senior author of the study released online today by the journal Science.

Targeted therapies are drugs that interfere with specific cancer-promoting pathways in tumor cells. They have been more effective than traditional chemotherapy drugs against tumors, though the effect usually lasts only one to two years. Tumors rapidly mutate to use alternate pathways, like back alleys, to bypass the original pathways blocked by the medicines.
 
To combat that resistance, researchers typically analyze DNA from a biopsy of a drug-resistant tumor to try and identify the resistance-causing mutation, then pick a new drug to block that alternate pathway as well. This approach has met with limited success because most genetic results are ambiguous or don’t directly point to treatment strategies, Engelman said.

Growing Tissue

In collaboration with Cyril Benes, also at Massachusetts General, Engelman’s team developed a method using a patient’s drug-resistant tumor cells to screen for effective therapies. Starting with a tiny amount of tumor tissue from a biopsy, the scientists grew patient cells in a dish until they had enough to perform drug screening. They then tested those cells against 76 cancer drugs.
 
By combining the drug screening and traditional genetic analyses, the team successfully identified treatment combinations that killed cells in 45 of 55 drug-resistant tumor cell lines tested.

The team didn’t use the resulting drug combinations to alter or guide any patient’s treatment regimens, Engelman said. Before that can be done, the method needs to be evaluated in a randomized clinical trial to see whether the drug combinations that kill cancer cells in a dish are similarly effective in patients, he said.

In addition, the team spent months coaxing the patient cells to grow into large enough populations for the drug screening. To be useful to a cancer patient undergoing treatment, that process needs to take weeks, not months.

“What we’ve done is quite modest,” Engelman said. “What’s exciting now is whether we can take it to that next step -- use it to inform how we treat patients.”

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By directly screening patient cancer cells, researchers have created a new way to identify potential treatments to effectively attack drug-resistant tumors. While the screening system has only been used on tumor cells in a dish and in mice, the method could someday lead...
cancer, drugs, targeted, tumors
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2014-25-13
Thursday, 13 November 2014 04:25 PM
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