Drug Combo Shows Promise Treating Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer


The EGFR/TNF inhibitor treatment effectively blocks the tumor necrosis factor escape route for non-small cell lung cancer.

A combination treatment using 2 currently available drugs may serve as an effective treatment for most lung cancers, according to a recent study by researchers with UT Southwestern’s Simmons Cancer Center.

According to the study, the combination includes 2 drugs: one targeting epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and one targeting tumor necrosis factor (TNF). EGFR inhibitors have only been previously effective in treating a subset of patients with non-small cell lung cancers that have a variant of EGFR, but the 2-drug combination may work for all non-small cell lung cancers, according to the press release.

“There has been tremendous effort over the past several years to block EGFR as a treatment for lung cancer, but this therapy only works for a small subset of patients,” Amyn Habib, MD, senior author of the study, who is with the Harold C Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern, noted in the press release.

Using a mouse model, the researchers found that the combination effectively blocks cancer from using TNF as an escape route. Once the TNF is blocked, the cancer becomes sensitive to EGFR treatment.

The study’s findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, build on Dr Habib’s previous research showing that the combination strategy was successful in a mouse model of glioblastoma.

An EGFR/TNF inhibitor treatment can be beneficial for patients with lung cancer because the combination affects specific molecules within cancer cells, making them more tolerable than traditional chemotherapy drugs that have many unpleasant adverse effects, the researchers noted.

Researchers are planning a phase 2 clinical trial of the 2-drug combination that will test the treatment for both lung cancer and glioblastomas, which they hope will be able to launch within a year, according to the press release. David Gerber, MD, with the Simmons Cancer Center, will lead the trial.

“If this strategy is effective, then it might be broadly applicable not only against lung cancer but also against other cancers that express EGFR, which include brain, colon, and head and neck cancers,” Dr Gerber said in the press release.


Gong K, Gao G, Gerber DE, et al. TNF-driven adaptive response mediates resistance to EGFR-inhibition in lung cancer. The Journal of Clinical Investigation. Published April 3, 2018. Doi: 10.1172/JCI96148

Study: Double-drug strategy blocks escape route for most lung cancers [news release]. Dallas. UT Southwestern’s website. http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/newsroom/articles/year-2018/lung-cancer-habib.html. Accessed April 4, 2018.

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