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Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 9:20 EDT

Arthritis Drug To Battle Lymphoma?

June 18, 2012

(Ivanhoe Newswire) – NK/T-cell lymphoma is a very aggressive form of cancer, and currently has no effective treatment along with having a poor prognosis. This subtype of lymphoma is pretty rare in the United States, but is responsible for a large number of deaths in Asia, particularly China and Korea.

A substantial proportion of NK/T-cell lymphomas harbor Janus Kinase 3 gene mutations. Patients with these lymphomas might benefit from treatment with a Janus Kinase inhibitor according to a recent study by the American Association for Center Research.

Bin Tean Teh, M.D., Ph.D., is the director of the National Cancer Center Singapore-Van Andel Research Institute Translational Research Laboratory at the NCCS, and professor at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore. He was quoted as saying, “”Very little was known about the genetic and molecular defects causing NK/T-cell lymphoma before we started this work.”

“It is tremendously rewarding to have identified genetic mutations that appear to have an important role in driving the cancer in a considerable fraction of cases. Moreover, we are excited that there is a drug already in phase III trials for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis that targets the mutant protein. We are in the process of planning a clinical trial to study whether this drug benefits NK/T-cell lymphoma patients,” said Teh.

Bin Tean Teh has had a personal encounter with NK/T-cell lymphoma, “Many years ago, I and a colleague came to the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich., my colleague unfortunately developed NK/T-cell lymphoma and passed away. It was the only case of this cancer ever diagnosed in Grand Rapids.”

“The passing of my colleague, whom I was very close to, was the reason that I started studying NK/T-cell lymphoma. It has been a complicated puzzle, but I feel that we have pieced together enough that we will have an impact on a large number of patients with this disease.”

To identify genetic mutations that might have a functional consequence, Teh and his colleagues sequenced all the genes in NK/T-cell lymphoma cells from four patients. In addition to mutations in genes known to be associated with cancer, they detected mutations in the Janus Kinase 3 (JAK3) gene in the cancer cells from half of the patients. The researchers conducted follow-up sequencing of NK/T-cell lymphoma cells from an additional 65 patients and identified JAK3 mutations in 23 of those patients.

A JAK inhibitor that is currently being assessed in phase III clinical trials as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis killed cultured NK/T-cell lymphoma cell lines by a process known as apoptosis which is the preprogramming of  the death of cells.

“We are currently putting together a proposal to test JAK inhibitors as a treatment for NK/T-cell lymphoma with JAK3 mutations,” Teh was quoted as saying. “I am hopeful that we might have found a molecular target for the treatment of a least some patients with this otherwise fatal disease.”

SOURCE:  Cancer Discovery June 2012