JACKSON, Miss. - The following news release is from the University of Mississippi Medical Center:
A drug used to treat leukemia patients shows promise in fighting triple-negative breast cancer, a particularly aggressive subtype often affecting African-American women, researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center Cancer Institute said.
Scientists found roughly half of more than 800 triple-negative tumor samples they tested exhibited a key protein in the cells’ nuclei. Further experiments proved the drug imatinib mesylate targets that protein and stops the growth process.
“By identifying a biomarker and oncogene found in about half of all triple-negative cases, we were able to successfully target and kill tumor cells in that subset of triple-negative samples,” said Dr. Wael M. ElShamy, UMMC associate professor of biochemistry and Cancer Institute researcher.
“The next step is to organize a phase one clinical trial, where we would test this drug in a small number of women with this cancer subtype in addition to their regular treatment. We hope to be able to start in that process shortly.”
PLOS (Public Library of Science) ONE, an online peer-reviewed journal, published ElShamy and his team’s findings in April.
Triple-negative breast cancer, most often diagnosed in African-American women, is notorious for spreading, following initial treatment, to the brain, lungs or liver.
Triple negative refers to a sub-type of cancer whose cells lack three kinds of receptors on their cell surfaces. Conventional cancer drugs target those receptors, but they’re ineffective for triple-negative patients.
If the drug imatinib passes clinical trials, it would be a new targeted therapy for triple-negative breast cancer.Targeted therapies seek and destroy cancer cells, leaving healthy ones unharmed. While every targeted therapy can have side effects, they usually are not as bad as those associated with systemic or chemotherapy drugs.
ElShamy, who heads the UMMC Cancer Institute’s Molecular Cancer Therapeutics Program, spent more than a decade searching for a match of a target protein in triple-negative breast cancer and a drug that would lock onto it.“Breast cancer kills 40,000 women a year in the United States,” he said. “This subtype of breast cancer, triple-negative, is over represented in Mississippi’s population of African-American women and kills many young women.”
According to the Mississippi Cancer Registry, at least 307 Mississippi women were diagnosed with TBNC in 2011. Testing was not completed on tumor samples from about 100 other women.
Imatinib already has Food and Drug Administration approval for use in humans so it could be OK’d for market quicker than would a new drug, ElShamy said. Oncologists currently prescribe imatinib for children and adults with certain types of leukemia.
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