Experimental Drug May Prevent Cancer By Inhibiting Obesity-Associated Gene

New drug shows promising signs of delaying the development of existing breast and lung cancers. .

As the number of obesity-associated cancers rise, scientists are looking for new approaches in cancer prevention. Published in Cancer Prevention Research, findings from 2 new studies highlight a promising new treatment that may be able to reduce mortality rates of obesity-induced cancers.1

The experimental drug, called I-BET-762, works by inhibiting a cancer-causing gene known as c-Myc to prevent breast and lung cancer from developing. The c-Myc gene is induced by visceral fat, which is found around the inner organs of the body, as opposed to subcutaneous fat. With evidence that visceral fat and high-fat diets may elevate cancer risk, the researchers are hoping that treatments aimed at inhibiting the activity of several oncogenes, including c-Myc, will reduce mortality of obesity-related cancers.

In a preclinical study, I-BET-762 demonstrated signs of significantly delaying the development of these cancers by inhibiting important proteins—both in cancer and immune cells–to reduce the amount of cancer cells in mice by 80%, according to the researchers. One of these proteins, known as pSTAT3, can stop immune cells from fighting off an invading cancer if activated in the cell. This protein can also become overproduced in cancer cells and act as a shield to protect the tumor.

The researchers noted that the drug decreased pSTAT3 levels by 50% in both types of cells.

In the second study, researchers looked at the drug’s impact on precancerous human cells that could be tumorigenic, but weren’t quite yet. The drug prevented more than 50% of these cells from being cancerous, according to the results.

Jamie Bernard, PhD, study author and assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology, noted that limited success in reducing mortality rates of breast and lung cancer mean that new approaches for prevention are desperately needed.

“The goal is our findings will clarify what needs to be targeted and therefore, can be used to prevent cancer in high-risk patient populations,” Bernard said in a press release.2

Similar drugs are being tested in clinical trials for the treatment of other cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, and myeloma, and could potentially lead to improved outcomes for patients with these types of cancers.

Reference

1. Chakraborty D, Benham V, Jdanov V, et al. A BET bromodomain inhibitor suppresses adiposity-associated malignant transformation. Cancer Prevention Research. 2018. Doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-17-0262.

2. Promising Drug May Stop Cancer-Causing Gene in Its Tracks [news release]. MSU’s website. https://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2018/promising-drug-may-stop-cancer-causing-gene-in-its-tracks/. Accessed March 28, 2018.