Chemotherapy Used to Treat Mesothelioma Could get Boost from Potent Cancer Drug
Treatment for pleural mesothelioma, a rare cancer affecting the lining of the lungs, may vary slightly between patients, but nearly all patients are eventually treated with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is considered the most effective single modality for the treatment of mesothelioma. However, the challenge with chemotherapy is that many of the cancer cells continue to thrive or regenerate even after many cycles of the treatment.
Now, researchers at the University of Missouri report they have found a way to increase the potency of chemotherapy drugs by ten times. Through the use of carboranes, clusters of boron, carbon and hydrogen, the researchers were able to build new drugs that can shut off a cancer cell’s energy production, which is vital for the cell’s survival.
“Carboranes don’t fight cancer directly, but they aid in the ability of a drug to bind more tightly to its target, creating a more potent mechanism for destroying the cancer cells,” said Mark W. Lee Jr., assistant professor of chemistry in College of Arts and Science, and lead researcher.
When the binding ability of a chemotherapy drug is enhanced, it more readily interferes with the activity of the enzymes, eventually shutting down the enzyme, leading to improved effectiveness of the drug.
“Too often, after radiation or chemotherapy, cancer cells repair themselves and reinvade the body,” Lee said. “This drug not only selectively shuts off the energy production for the cancer cells, but it also inhibits the processes that allow those cancer cells to repair themselves.”
There are a variety of chemotherapeutic agents that can be used to fight mesothelioma, with the current chemotherapy standard of care a combination therapy utilizing pemetrexed and cisplatin. Unfortunately, in order for the drugs to be effective, a high dosage must be administered. With that dosage comes serious side effects including vomiting, fatigue and nausea.
According to Lee, with the increased potency of the drugs, patients can receive smaller and fewer dosages, leaving them with fewer side effects.
The new drugs were tested on breast, lung and colon cancers, “all with exceptional results.” Lee reports clinical trials could start within two years.
Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, and many die within a year of diagnosis. There is no cure for the cancer and finding a treatment that can extend the lives of patients has remained elusive for researchers.