Drug Combination Causes Lung Cancer Cells to Self-Destruct

Research may lead to more effective treatments in the future.

Research may lead to more effective treatments in the future.

By reprogramming lung cancer cells to self-destruct, researchers in the United Kingdom may have discovered a path for promising new treatment strategies.

Healthy cells that are no longer useful typically begin a chain of events that ends in self-destruction, but cancer cells are able to avoid this process. The cancer cells subsequently grow out of control and lead to the development of tumors.

Scientists from the Cancer Research UK team were able to successfully correct the fault in lung cancer cells by reprogramming them to self-destruct. Utilizing lung cancer cells in mice, the researchers forced the cancer cells to self-destruct by using a combination of a drug called TRAIL and a CDK9 inhibitor.

The drugs were able to alter the molecular switch in the cancer cells, which initiated the self-destruction process.

"Igniting the fuse that causes lung cancer cells to self-destruct could pave the way to a completely new treatment approach, and leave healthy cells unharmed,” lead researcher Henning Walczak said in a press release. "The next step of our work will see how this approach works in other cancer types, and we hope it could ultimately lead to testing this technique in trials to see if it can help patients."

The researchers noted that the work aids in understanding the routes cancer cells utilize to stay alive. Targeting those processes will bring cancer care closer to the goal of 3 out of every 4 patients beating the disease within the next 20 years.

"There's an urgent need to save more lives from lung cancer and we hope these findings will one day lead to effective new treatments to help lung cancer patients and potentially those with other cancer types too,” Nell Barrie, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said in a press release.