US Scientists Make Significant Advances in Treating Lung Cancer

by Tanya Thomas on Aug 11 2009 3:06 PM

American scientists claim to have made two significant advances in treating lung cancer.

Dr. Glen Weiss, from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Scottsdale Healthcare, made the announcements at the 13th World Conference on Lung Cancer in San Francisco.

The researcher is hopeful that the new findings will eventually help prevent lung cancer from spreading to the brain.

In non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), brain metastasis is a devastating complication that occurs in as many as 1 in 4 patients.

Dr. Weiss says that the ability to identify those at risk for developing brain metastasis may guide new therapies.

During the study, the researchers found several microRNAs - single-stranded RNA molecules that regulate how genes control cellular development as well as several high-tech imaging characteristics - all associated with the spread of lung cancer to the brain.

They are presently exploring the biological significance of these microRNAs.

"With additional validation, this work can lead to better techniques to predict, treat and ultimately prevent brain metastasis in patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Identifying the highest-risk population for brain metastasis, so that informed therapeutic trials can be undertaken, could enable a paradigmatic shift in treating these patients," Dr. Weiss said.

The researcher also discussed the results from two Phase I clinical trials that are evaluating the safety and effectiveness of TH-302, a drug activated in the absence of oxygen. Both clinical trials involve patients with advanced solid tumours.

In one, the patients are treated with TH-302 in combination with other chemotherapy agents, and, in the other, they are treated only with TH-302.

In the study of those treated only with TH-302, 75 percent of the patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC) "achieved stable disease or better."

In the study of those treated with TH-302 in combination with other chemotherapy agents, 67 percent of the patients with NSCLC "achieved stable disease or better," according to a release by Threshold and Scottsdale Healthcare.

"TH-302 is a new, novel, small molecule that is activated when cells are under conditions that lack oxygen, which is a metabolic condition characteristic of cancer cells. We are excited to continue investigations with TH-302 and about the potential benefit that it might confer to people living with lung cancer," Dr. Weiss said.