In an announcement from Researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) today (9/1/2008), scientists say they have found a drug that kills cancer cells and “turns off” the growth of cancerous endometrial tumors in a significant number of patients. The news follows last year's discovery by the same group of scientists, who identified the gene variant commonly associated with endometrial cancer.
In collaboration with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the researcher group also discovered the drug is effective in the presence of PTEN; a gene that normally acts as a tumor suppressor, but when altered, is associated with endometrial cancer.
Associate team investigator and lead study author, Dr. Pamela Pollock, in TGen’s Cancer and Cell Biology Division announced in May 2007 that she and her team had discovered alterations in the FGFR2 gene in nearly 15% of women with endometrial cancer. Dr. Pollock says, of the new study, "These findings could accelerate the development of new treatments for endometrial cancer because there are already drugs in clinical trials that inhibit FGFR2 function." The inhibitor drug, PD173074, was found to kill cancer cells and stop tumor in the presence of the mutated FGFR2 gene.
Until now, scientists have not found a way to target the genes responsible for the recurrence of endometrial cancer with drugs. Treatment of endometrial cancer typically involves surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, yet 15% of women have recurring or persistent tumors.
Dr. Paul Goodfellow, an expert in endometrial cancer and a professor in the departments of Surgery and of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University is also an associate for the study. According to Dr. Goodfellow, "The discovery that endometrial cancer cells die when treated with an FGFR2 inhibitor - even when they carry other genetic abnormalities common in uterine cancers - suggests anti-FGFR2 therapies have great potential."
The newest goal of cancer treatment is the development of drugs that can target known gene abnormalities found in various types of cancer, suppressing cell activity. Specific cancers that have responded well to the approach include lung cancer, breast cancer, and chronic myelogenous leukemia.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) will sponsor trials beginning next year. Dr. Goodfellow says, "Our collaborative group’s strong ties with the NCI’s Gynecologic Oncology Group will allow us to rapidly take our findings from the lab to patients."
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