Researchers at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne are pioneering the development of a new combination drug therapy to treat advanced blood cancers.
The new therapy builds on a world-first clinical trial already underway at Peter Mac, which uses the drug CX-5461 to treat patients with incurable blood cancers such as myeloma, lymphoma and leukaemia.
The new discovery, published in the journal Cancer Discovery, has shown promising results to date. The research team has found that CX-5461 could be even more effective when used in combination with another drug, Everolimus, already used to treat other cancers. The new combination has shown doubled survival times in pre-clinical laboratory models.
Killing off drug therapy resistant cancer cells
According to Professor Rick Pearson, Head of Peter Mac’s Cancer Signalling Laboratory, the research findings significantly enhance understanding of pre-emptive strategies to kill off cancer cells before they have the chance to become resistant to therapy.
“CX-5461 targets a particular process that is required for cancer cell survival. Our experiments show that adding Everolimous synergistically strengthens this attack, more rapidly and more effectively eradicating the killer disease.”
“We know that all cells rely on ribosomes (protein builders of the cell Ed.) which act like a factory producing the proteins essential for their growth and survival,” said Professor Pearson.
“Peter Mac researchers have previously shown that certain blood cancers are far more reliant on these proteins than normal cells, and that eliminating the protein production capability of ribosomes leads to the rapid death of cancer cells, while normal cells stay viable.”
“This novel therapy works to inhibit the ribosomes’ protein production capability, effectively starving the cancer cells of a key ingredient they need to survive and proliferate.”
“A further study in collaboration with scientists at Monash University shows striking effects in the targeting of late stage prostate cancer through a similar strategy indicating that this approach may be generally applicable for a range of cancer types.”
Improving outcomes for blood cancer patients
Associate Professor Simon Harrison, Consultant Haematologist at Peter Mac and Principal Investigator on the CX-5461 first-in-human trial, says this new research provides further confidence that researchers are on the right track.
“The prevalence and poor prognosis for people with advanced blood cancers demands the ongoing and intricate study of abnormal cell behaviour, which has been an indicator of cancer for over 100 years. To date 15 patients have been treated on the first-in-human clinical study with a number of patients experiencing prolonged benefit.”
More than 12,000 Australians are diagnosed with blood cancer annually (approximately 10% of all cancers) and around 4,000 Australians will lose their lives to the disease each year.
This research is supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council; Cancer Council Victoria; the Leukemia Foundation; Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia; Cancer Australia; Victorian Cancer Agency, Australian Cancer Research Foundation and Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation. Collaborators include the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University and Monash University.
The Australian Cancer Research Foundation has supported cancer research at Peter Mac by providing three major grants, totalling AUD 7 million.
The news was originally published on Peter Mac’s website.
Images courtesy of Peter Mac. On the cover Professor Rick Pearson with Professor Ross Hannan, Australian National University.
Top image: istockphoto. com