New application of existing drug offers personalized therapy for lung cancer

December 06, 2016

A subset of lung tumours is exquisitely sensitive to a class of recently approved anti-cancer drugs. Researchers at the CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Oxford published this finding in the journal Nature Communications. It opens the way for new clinical trials in a type of cancer considered to be "undruggable" and may lead to a therapy for up to 10% of lung cancer patients.

(Vienna, 6th of December 2016) Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. In contrast to other tumour types, lung tumours present a high number of genomic alterations - this is a consequence of exposure to carcinogenic substances found in tobacco smoke, which is the main cause of lung cancer. About 10% of lung tumours carry mutations in a gene called ATM. However, there are no drugs available in the clinic to treat ATM mutant lung cancer.

With cutting edge high-throughput drug screens that analyse how the genetic makeup of the patient affects their response to drugs, the team of Sebastian Nijman, CeMM Adjunct PI and Group Leader at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Oxford made a surprising discovery: Cancer cells with ATM mutations are sensitive for drugs that inhibit an enzyme called MEK. The study was published in Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS13701)

MEK is part of a biochemical pathway which is responsible for supporting proliferation and survival of the cell, while ATM plays a central role during the DNA damage response. In ATM deficient lung cancer cells, Nijman's team found that MEK inhibition results in cells being unable to keep proliferating and leads to apoptosis. An unexpected finding, as MEK inhibitors have so far been approved for the treatment of a type of skin cancer but not for lung cancer.

"Normally lung cancer cells are resistant to MEK inhibition as they activate compensatory signals," Ferran Fece, one of the two first authors on the study and former PhD student at CeMM, explains. "In contrast, ATM mutant cells fail to do this and subsequently cannot cope with the blocking of MEK and die. We call this type of unexpected drug sensitivity synthetic lethality".

Michal Smida, the other shared first author on the article and former PostDoc at CeMM, adds: "We knew that cancer mutations can lead to extreme sensitivity to some drugs. But finding these cancer Achilles' heels is very difficult as they are difficult to predict and extremely rare. We screened a large number of gene and drug combinations and got lucky."

The study constitutes a substantial contribution for the development of a future precision medicine: ATM mutations could be used as a potential biomarker to stratify lung cancer patients to receive a MEK inhibitor. ATM is found to be mutated in 8-10% of lung adenocarcinomas - given that this type of tumour is among the most prevalent for both men and women worldwide, a significant number of patients could benefit from a MEK inhibitor based treatment.
-end-
The study "MEK inhibitors block growth of lung tumors with mutations in Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated" is published in Nature Communications on 6th of December 2016, 10:00h London Time; DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS13701

Authors: Michal Smida*, Ferran Fece de la Cruz*, Claudia Kerzendorfer, Iris Z Uras, Barbara Mair, Abdel Mazouzi, Tereza Suchankova, Tomasz Konopka, Amanda M Katz, Keren Paz, Katalin Nagy-Bojarszky, Markus K Muellner, Zsuzanna Bago-Horvath, Eric B Haura, Joanna I Loizou and Sebastian MB Nijman (* equal contribution).

Funding: This study was supported by the European Research Council (ERC), the Moffitt Lung Cancer Center of Excellence, research grants from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF) and the European Union FP7 Career Integration Grant, fellowships from the Austrian Academy of Sciences as well as by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic.

Sebastian Nijman studied Medical Biology at the University of Utrecht and received his Ph.D. at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in 2005 in the group of René Bernards. He was a postdoctoral fellow at The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, in the laboratory of Todd Golub and started his own group in 2007 in Vienna at CeMM. There, he discovered the first mechanism of resistance to PI3K/mTOR inhibitors and developed isogenic cell models to discover novel drug-gene interactions. In November 2014, he joined the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and Target Discovery Institute in Oxford. Sebastian Nijman retains an adjunct PI position at CeMM.

The CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences is an interdisciplinary research institute committed to advancing the understanding of human diseases through basic and biomedical research. Located at the center of the Medical University of Vienna's campus, CeMM fosters a highly collaborative and interactive research mindset. Focusing on medically relevant questions, CeMM researchers concentrate on human biology and diseases like cancer and inflammation/immune disorders. In support of scientific pursuits and medical needs, CeMM provides access to cutting-edge technologies and has established a strategic interest in personalized medicine. Since 2005, Giulio Superti-Furga is the Scientific Director of CeMM. http://www.cemm.at

For further information please contact

Mag. Wolfgang Däuble
Media Relations Manager

CeMM
Research Center for Molecular Medicine
of the Austrian Academy of Sciences
Lazarettgasse 14, AKH BT 25.3
1090 Vienna, Austria
Phone +43-1/40160-70 057
Fax +43-1/40160-970 000
wdaeuble@cemm.oeaw.ac.at
http://www.cemm.at

CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences

Related Lung Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

State-level lung cancer screening rates not aligned with lung cancer burden in the US
A new study reports that state-level lung cancer screening rates were not aligned with lung cancer burden.

The lung microbiome may affect lung cancer pathogenesis and prognosis
Enrichment of the lungs with oral commensal microbes was associated with advanced stage disease, worse prognosis, and tumor progression in patients with lung cancer, according to results from a study published in Cancer Discovery, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

New analysis finds lung cancer screening reduces rates of lung cancer-specific death
Low-dose CT screening methods may prevent one death per 250 at-risk adults screened, according to a meta-analysis of eight randomized controlled clinical trials of lung cancer screening.

'Social smokers' face disproportionate risk of death from lung disease and lung cancer
'Social smokers' are more than twice as likely to die of lung disease and more than eight times as likely to die of lung cancer than non-smokers, according to research presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress.

Lung cancer therapy may improve outcomes of metastatic brain cancer
A medication commonly used to treat non-small cell lung cancer that has spread, or metastasized, may have benefits for patients with metastatic brain cancers, suggests a new review and analysis led by researchers at St.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Lung transplant patients face elevated lung cancer risk
In an American Journal of Transplantation study, lung cancer risk was increased after lung transplantation, especially in the native (non-transplanted) lung of single lung transplant recipients.

Proposed cancer treatment may boost lung cancer stem cells, study warns
Epigenetic therapies -- targeting enzymes that alter what genes are turned on or off in a cell -- are of growing interest in the cancer field as a way of making a cancer less aggressive or less malignant.

Are you at risk for lung cancer?
This question isn't only for people who've smoked a lot.

Read More: Lung Cancer News and Lung Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.