Lung Cancer Breakthrough - Identifying a Major Oncogene
American Lung Association research has yielded an important discovery in the search for improved treatment of lung cancer, a disease that causes more deaths than any other cancer in the United States. In 2008, Alan P. Fields, Ph.D., a recipient of the American Lung Association Lung Cancer Discovery Award, and his team at the Mayo Clinic Florida identified a major oncogene—a gene responsible for lung cancer development in mice.
Along with this scientific breakthrough, the team also found a drug once used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, showed promise in inhibiting the oncogene, known as protein kinase Ciota (PKCi), in some types of lung cancer. The drug aurothiomalate (ATM) is known as a targeted therapy, meaning it doesn't kill both cancer and normal cells the way chemotherapy drugs do. ATM instead specifically targets PKCi, preventing the oncogene's ability to turn normal cells into cancerous tumor cells.
Dr. Fields and his team found that PKCi is over-expressed in a majority of lung cancer and is also necessary for lung cancer growth. ATM was effective in inhibiting tumor growth in mice with lung cancer when given at levels similar to those given to people being treated for rheumatoid arthritis. These results suggest that lung cancer patients whose tumors have high PKCi levels are likely to respond to ATM therapy. Dr. Fields also found that ATM is effective when used together with other targeted drugs used to treat lung cancer, but not with traditional chemotherapy drugs.
Building on the data gathered through his American Lung Association Lung Cancer Discovery Award, Dr. Fields and his colleagues have conducted a Phase I clinical trial of ATM in lung cancer patients, to assess the safety and optimal dosing of the drug for lung cancer treatment. His results show that ATM is well-tolerated and he is planning to start a Phase II trial to look at the effectiveness of the drug in combination with another targeted agent as a treatment for lung cancer.
Dr. Fields has now started several phaseI/II trials to assess the effectiveness of the drug in combination with another targeted agent as a treatment for lung cancer. Clinical trials are also ongoing to explore the potential of ATM in the treatment.