Discovering Alternate Routes Cancer Cells Travel Can Lead to Better Treatments

Drug resistance is better understood through mapping out alternate paths cancer cells take in order to avoid targeted treatment.

Cancer cells usually manage to avoid targeted therapies that block pathways the cells need to grow. This common occurrence typically results in drug resistance.

In a study published by Cancer Cell, researchers mainly looked at glioblastoma and which alternate pathways these cancer cells use.

"Figuring out why resistance to targeted therapies develops has been the focus of our research for a long time," Paul Mischel, MD, said in a press release. "In this study, we looked at a drug that should work and found out why it doesn't."

A tool called single-cell phosphoproteomics was used in order to see individual cancer cells and their respective signaling.

Researchers used patient tissue from operating rooms to analyze the mTOR growth pathway.

The study found that cancer cells started adapting to the blocked growth pathway,consequently resisting therapies in as little as 48 hours.

Researchers found that cancerous cells remapped their routes before any changes could be detected.

"Although the technology used to analyze the cells is relatively simple and inexpensive--just glass and plastic--trials will be difficult to design," says James Heath, PhD. "For this type of personalized treatment, we won't know what drugs to give patients until after their tumors are analyzed. Every trial will essentially have a sample size of one."

The study also revealed that developing drugs for glioblastoma are difficult, since it needs to cross the blood-brain barrier.

The results lead researchers to believe that single-cell-analysis could likely be used to develop personalized treatment for many different types of cancer in the future.