A research team from University Hospitals Case Medical Center Seidman Cancer Center (OH, USA) have recently published two studies that may contribute to the development of new treatments for small-cell lung cancer (SCLC), an aggressive form of lung cancer that has seen no treatment advances in the past 30 years.
The first study, published recently in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, identified a new mutation in SCLC termed RET that may be linked to rapid cell growth during disease development. The research team were especially equipped to carry out this work, which entailed the examination of specimens from their database of metastatic SCLC tumors, one of the largest in the country. They concluded that the RET mutant protein might be linked to faster-growing cells that are sensitive to two recently developed targeted drug therapies: vandetanib and ponatinib. There are plans for future clinical trials involving SCLC patients with the RET mutations in order to validate this promising data.
Lead author of the study Afshan Dowlati (University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, Case Western Reserve University and Case Comprehensive Cancer Center; all OH, USA) highlighted the hope this preliminary finding represents: “We were encouraged to find that these two cancer-fighting therapies are potentially effective at stopping cancer cell growth in certain small-cell lung cancers. These findings have the potential to give cancer physicians a new tool to more effectively tailor treatments for patients.”
The second study, published in PLOS One, details an original method for the identification of new drug therapies for SCLC. The team utilized the tumors’ genomic profile to examine drug sensitivity and thereby discovered new molecular targets to treat the disease. This analysis formed the foundation for the new approach outlined in the study, which predicts the cancer-fighting drugs that could be most broadly effective at curbing tumor growth.
Dowlati commented, “This study enabled us to identify which drugs may be the most useful in which types of tumor. Small-cell lung cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers and these studies have yielded small but important therapeutic insights into this disease.”
These results are particularly important considering the dearth of research into SCLC. “In SCLC, which impacts about 30–40,000 people each year in the United States, there has been no therapeutic progress and very little research,” Dowlati reports. “Additionally, there are no approved targeted therapies for the disease. These studies lay the foundation for future research aimed at finding important new treatments for this highly malignant cancer.”