New way of treating lung cancer soon

Scientists have uncovered the mechanism by which aggressive lung cancers re-grow following chemotherapy, offering hope for new therapies.

The study, conducted by a team from Monash (Australia), Stanford and Johns Hopkins (US) universities, not only opens the way to new drugs, but also presents a novel way of treating cancers.

Neil Watkins, professor at the Monash Institute of Medical Research (MIMR) led the study, the journal Nature Medicine reports.

“Some aggressive types of cancer respond very well to chemotherapy, but then the real challenge is to stop the tumour coming back. That’s what we investigated,” said Watkins, according to a Monash statement.

Between 15 and 20 percent of lung cancers are an extremely aggressive type known as small cell lung cancer (SCLC) that responds well to chemotherapy, but regrows and is then less responsive to the treatment.

The study showed that the regrowth of SCLC cells could be blocked by a drug that targets growth signals, which, in healthy cells, control organ development and repair.

Watkins said that blocking the signalling pathway, known as ‘Hedgehog’, could form the basis of new SCLC treatments.

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