At the starting line in the United States the first tests of combined therapy against tumors, in which at least two drugs are directed simultaneously against two proteins known to help diseased cells: it is the new approach born from the discovery of the role played by genetic mutations that cause tumors.
Published in Cancer Discovery, the journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (Aacr), the result is due to the group coordinated by the Italian Antonio Iavarone, who left Italy many years ago to work in the United States and Columbia University in New York recently transferred to the University of Miami where he is assistant director of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Another Italian, Anna Lasorella, conducted the research with him.
The first mutations involved in tumors had been discovered by the same researchers in malignant brain tumors.
"We now know that the same gene, called LZTR1, is involved in multiple cancers and some syndromes related to cancer development, such as Schwannomatosis, a rare and painful condition that allows benign tumors to grow around nerves," Iavarone said. to ANSA.
“We discovered what the mutations involved in tumors do and this – he added – is important because it allows us to target the mechanisms of tumor development.
Now we can exploit this knowledge.”
It is an important step forward towards the new strategy that identifies tumors on the basis of their molecular characteristics and then chooses as targets the mechanisms linked to dangerous mutations.
The LZTR1 gene, for example, was until now known to be an enemy of tumors (tumor suppressor), and now it has been seen that when it mutates it instead becomes an ally of tumors, favoring their development.
The researchers discovered that, under normal conditions, the gene destroys two proteins, called EGFR and AXL, which tend to accumulate abnormally, causing tumor formation.
If it's mutated, it doesn't block them.
“LZTR1 mutations play a significant role in many cancers, including lung, brain, breast, colon, esophageal and other cancers.
“Now we know what the two proteins are, both very important for the development of human tumors – said Iavarone – and we know that there are already precision drugs designed to block them.
The problem – he adds – is that they are often used without success ”.
This is because they are often given singly, and if only one protein is affected, the other continues to help the tumour.
“For this reason, the EGFR and AXL proteins must both be blocked, with a combined therapy of the two drugs”.
After the encouraging results in mice, clinical trials are expected soon, on patients who have the mutation of the LZTR1 gene, although they are affected by various forms of cancer.