Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cancer Becoming Resistant to Cancer Drugs

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology discovered one way in which a certain class of cancers is becoming resistant to cancer drugs.
Cancer drugs known as ErbB inhibitors have shown great success in treating many patients with lung, breast, colon and other types of cancer. However, ErbB drug resistance means that many other patients do not respond, and even among those who do, tumors commonly come back.
To be honest, I had to look up ErbB inhibitor as I hadn't heard of that term.  It turns out I knew them as epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFRs).

Epidermal growth factor receptors are proteins that live on the cell membrane.  It's normal for cells in your body to have them.  When bound to the ligand, it triggers the cellular machinery to migrate, adhere and proliferate... all the things we don't want cancer cells to do.

There are certain types of cancer that are characterized by over-expression of ErbB and therefore companies have developed drugs that target ErbB in order to inhibit them... thus the term ErbB inhibitor.

What MIT is saying is that some tumors are developing resistance to these types of drugs.  And they found this with a database exercise.  They queried some wonkish database and found drug-resistance when ErbB receptors are found with AXL receptors across across many types of cancer, including lung, breast and pancreatic.

The MIT conclusion is to target the AXL receptors alone or in combination to attack tumors that are becoming resistant to commercial ErbB inhibitors.

Commercialized ErbB inhibitors include:
My guess is that we're going to see companies targeting this AXL receptor and in a few years, see cell culture processes designed to make biologics that inhibit AXL.

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