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Lung tumour treatment shows promise

13 November 2009

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Category: Research & medical benefits

mice_v.small.jpgResearchers have discovered a new medicine which is able to stop lung tumours from growing in mice, even eliminating them altogether in half of all cases.

The cancers being studied are specifically small cell lung cancer tumours. These grow and spread quickly rendering surgery unsuitable. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy initially work well at shrinking the tumours, but they usually grow back and become resistant to the treatment.

Previous research had identified that the rapid growth and spread of small cell lung tumors is fueled by a growth hormone called FGF-2. The team was therefore looking for a chemical that would reduce the effect of this hormone. After laboratory tests on cells taken from human tumours, the researchers discovered that an inhibitor called PD173074 blocks the FGF-2 receptor, making the hormone unable to take effect. 

The team then tested the inhibitor in mice, using two different types of human small cell lung cancer tumours. The study looked at the inhibitor on its own and also in conjunction with cisplatin (a standard chemotherapy agent). In the first group of mice, the inhibitor on its own killed off tumours in half of the mice, which went on to remain disease-free for at least one year. In the second group, each of the medications alone slowed tumour growth, but when the medications were combined the tumour growth slowed down significantly faster than when a single treatment was used. 

The authors are planning to take the treatment, or a similar agent that targets the same hormone, into clinical trials next year. One of the benefits of this medicine is that it could be taken orally, as opposed to other chemotherapy treatments that are administered intravenously, which involves a hospital visit.