Drug-resistant diseases are engaging the attention of the medical community the world over.
Now Australian researchers say they have found that a cell protein plays a key role in "prote
cting" cancer cells from a wide range of chemotherapeutic drugs.
A team of scientists at Children's Cancer Institute Australia for Medical Research (CCIA), led by Associate Professor Maria Kavallaris, have identified the âIII-tubulin component of the cell's cytoskeleton as being responsible for resistance to drugs used to treat lung, ovarian and breast cancers.
Advanced non-small cell lung carcinomas (NSCLC) account for more than 80 per cent of lung cancer cases. More than one million people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year, the most common cancer in the world and the leading cause of cancer deaths.
Chemotherapy remains the most effective treatment option, involving a diverse range of drugs, often used in combination. However, the emergence of drug-resistant tumours in NSCLC means chemotherapy no longer holds the promise of a good outcome for many patients.
Increased expression of âIII-tubulin has been linked to drug resistance in NSCLC, ovarian and breast cancers. In the journal Cancer Research, Associate Professor Kavallaris and her team showed that blocking the expression of the âIII-tubulin gene in NSCLC cells led to an increase in their sensitivity to a range of chemotherapeutic drugs.
"Our results strongly suggest that the âIII-tubulin component is responsible for protecting NSCLC cells from the action of key chemotherapeutic drugs," said Associate Professor Kavallaris.
"This is the first scientific evidence for the broader implications of abnormal expression of this protein.
"We now have new insight into a mechanism of drug resistance in NSCLC which has not previously been reported. This has important implications for improving the targeting and treatment of a number of cancers which are resistant to current chemotherapeutic drugs," said Associate Professor Kavallaris.