New Drug Stops Lung Tumor Growth in its Tracks

A chemical inhibitor was found to limit the growth of lung tumor cells and may provide better treatment for lung cancer patients.

The novel chemical compound NGI-1 was found to partially disrupt glycosylation in lung cancer cells, while leaving other cells relatively unharmed, according to a recent study published in Nature Chemical Biology.

Researchers screened more than 350,000 chemical compounds during their search, and eventually identified the inhibitor NGI-1. To disrupt the growth of cancer cells, NGI-1 blocks the glycosylation of the enzyme oligosaccharyltranferase (OST), which plays a critical role in cancer metastasis.

Findings from the study indicated that the enzyme loses its ability to properly glycosylate the receptor proteins when the glycosylation of OST was blocked. Additionally, NGI-1 only appeared to limit the cancer cells from spreading depending on EGFR and FGFR protein receptors.

This means that it can specifically target cancer cell growth with little effect on non-cancerous cells.

“This is important to cancer research because what we’re looking for are therapies that don’t have a lot of effect on normal cells but do have a lot of effect on tumor cells, and this falls into that category,” said senior study author Joseph Contessa.

It was previously believed that glycosylation could be switched on or off for all cells. However, researchers stated that the use of NGI-1 should be thought of as a dimmer switch instead.

NGI-1 only partially blocks glycosylation, which means that it has the greatest effect on tumor cells that are highly dependent on EGFR and FGFR. Researchers hope to bring this new information back into the clinic with hopes it can eventually provide an alternative treatment to existing therapies, such as radiation.

The study indicated that the findings identify OST inhibition as a potential therapeutic approach to treating receptor-tyrosine-kinase-dependent tumors. Since NGi-1 molecule is relatively small in size, researchers suggest that it could be potentially used in pill form and ingested by patients.

“We have therapies, and they’re good therapies, but they’re not enough,” Contessa said. “We need to take the next step.”