Lung Cancer Discovery May Lead to New Mesothelioma Treatment
Stopping tumor growth and preventing metastasis in cancers, especially mesothelioma and lung cancer which are both highly aggressive and resistant to many cancer treatments, is critical for increasing survival in patients. Now, researchers believe they have found a mechanism that causes lung cancer to re-grow after undergoing chemotherapy leading them to a new approach in treating the disease.
One reason that pleural mesothelioma, a pulmonary cancer caused by the inhalation of asbestos dust, is difficult to treat is that regardless of the therapy used the cancer almost always recurs locally. The resistance of mesothelioma to treatment is due to its apoptotic defect, which prevents the medicines from killing the cancer cells allowing them to continue to grow and divide.
According to a study published in Nature, researchers from Monash, Stanford and John Hopkins universities found that they may need to take a new approach when fighting small cell lung cancer (SCLC). Like mesothelioma, SCLC is an aggressive type of lung cancer for which there is no effective treatment.
The scientists focused their research on discovering why tumors come back after they have responded to chemotherapy by shrinking. They found that targeting and blocking the Hedgehog signaling pathway, which is responsible for signaling cells to grow, could “increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy and reduce the risk of cancer relapse.”
“This discovery gives us important clues for designing new treatment approaches.” said Dr. Neil Watkins of the Monash Institute of Medical Research, who led the Monash research team.
Dr Vinod Ganju, a medical oncologist at the Monash Cancer Centre, added, “Based on this research, we need to change our approach. We will re-design our clinical trials to test how these new therapies can improve patient outcomes following chemotherapy.”
For patients diagnosed at a later stage of mesothelioma, chemotherapy is still considered the most effective single modality for their treatment, although it is most often palliative and is aimed at relieving the symptoms and improving the patient’s quality of life.