April 6, 2011

New Target Drug For Lung Cancer?

By: Rhonda Craig, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent

A leukemia drug may be used as a new target therapy for some lung cancer patients.

Nearly 150,000 Americans die of lung cancer each year, and squamous cell lung cancers account for at least 30 percent these deaths. Scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have identified a mutation in the DDR2 gene that may indicate which squamous cell lung cancer patients will respond to the drug dasatinib. The findings were presented at the American Association for Cancer Research's 102nd Annual Meeting in Orlando this week and were also published in the organization's newest journal, Cancer Discovery.

"There's actually no drug that we have that is specifically indicated for squamous cell carcinoma, so sometimes when we tell patients they have squamous cell carcinoma, their face drops because there's fewer options in terms of treatment and so this is why I'm very excited about Dr. Meyerson's paper," William Pao, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of medicine, cancer biology and pathology at Vanderbilt University, told Ivanhoe.

For the study, Matthew Meyerson, lead researcher and a professor of pathology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts and his colleagues examined samples of squamous lung tumors and ran them through genetic sequencing tests. They assessed the genes and gene mutations in each tumor. The DDR2 gene was the most frequently mutated in the samples and occurred in about 3 percent of the samples. Meyerson estimated that DDR2 mutations would be present in about 1,000 to 2,000 of lung cancer patients in the U.S. Researchers found that dasatinib was the most potent of all the drugs tested. It is already used to treat chronic myeloid leukemia.

"The role of DDR2 in the causation of squamous lung cancer needs to be further validated. Given that dasatinib is already approved for therapeutic use, it is worth exploring clinical trials for dasatinib for squamous cell lung cancer," Meyerson concluded.

SOURCE: AACR 102nd Annual Meeting 2011, held in Orlando, FL, April 2-6, 2011