How Can Radiotherapy Be Enhanced Across Wide Range of Cancer Types?

Combination therapy with AKT inhibitors shows promise.

Combination therapy with AKT inhibitors shows promise.

Researchers may have discovered a method to improve radiotherapy across a wide range of cancer types.

In a study published recently in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers discovered 6 genes that aid in protecting against cancer show less activity in oxygen-deprived cancer cells with a faulty p53 gene.

“Advances in how we give radiotherapy and use it in combination with other treatments have the potential to improve survival for thousands of cancer patients,” said Cancer Research UK senior science information manager Eleanor Barrie in a press release. “More than half of all cancer patients receive radiotherapy as part of their treatment, so anything that can be done to improve its effectiveness is potentially great news for patients.”

When the PHLDA3 and INPP5D genes are absent from these 6, the AKT gene is permanently activated, which blocks the cells from death despite the cells being deprived of oxygen. When drugs that block AKT were administered to mice with tumors and in lab-grown cancer cells that lacked p53, radiotherapy was able to kill more tumor cells.

Furthermore, lower activity in the genes was also associated with worse survival outcomes in patients across a variety of different cancers. This finding indicates that the addition of AKT inhibitors to radiotherapy may be an effective method for the treatment of many types of cancer.

“This exciting discovery sheds light on the role of oxygen-starvation in cancer development and suggests that drugs already being trialed in cancer patients could potentially boost the effectiveness of radiotherapy across a range of cancers,” Study leader Ester Hammond, MD, said in a press release. “We hope that this important piece of the jigsaw will support ongoing efforts to develop drugs that enhance radiotherapy, so that even more patients can benefit from this cornerstone of cancer treatment.”