Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Adds To Growing Body Of Knowledge About Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women; about 1 out of 4 cancer deaths are from lung cancer. About 224,390 new cases of lung cancer (117,920 in men and 106,470 in women) and about 158,080 deaths from lung cancer (85,920 in men and 72,160 in women) have been reported for 2016 according to the  American Cancer Society’s estimates for lung cancer in the United States for 2016.

The mission at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is to provide expert, compassionate care to children and adults with cancer while advancing the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, cure, and prevention of cancer and related diseases. As an affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a Comprehensive Cancer Center designated by the National Cancer Institute, Dana-Farber also provides training for new generations of physicians and scientists, designs programs that promote public health particularly among high-risk and underserved populations, and disseminates innovative patient therapies and scientific discoveries to our target community across the United States and throughout the world. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's ultimate goal is the eradication of cancer, AIDS, and related diseases and the fear that they engender. Above all else, Dana-Farber makes a difference by relieving the burden of disease now and for the future through our research, clinical care, education, outreach and advocacy.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists report that they have been able to chemically blindside a mutant enzyme critical to lung cancer cells. The study was published in the journal Nature.

“We’ve found an entirely new way to selectively inhibit EGFR,” said the study’s senior author, Michael Eck, MD, PhD, of Dana-Farber. “Because these allosteric compounds bind in a different site on the receptor, they can inhibit mutants that cause resistance to all other EGFR-targeted therapies.”

Researchers say that of the many virtues of EAI045, it does not target the normal version found in healthy cells, rather specifically targets the mutant form of EGFR in cancer cells. This breakthrough inhibitor is therefore less likely to produce the side effects associated with conventional targeted therapies. Although EA1045 is used solely in research, scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are developing similar compounds, ultimately leading to clinical trials in patients seeking alternative drug therapies.

While testing the potential of this approach to EGFR inhibition, the investigators tested EAI045 in combination with the drug cetuximab in mice with NSCLC driven by mutant EGFR. Some of the animals had tumors with two EGFR mutations (the original one and T790M), and some had tumors with three (the original, T790M, and C797S), a type resistant to all current targeted therapies. Shrinking was observed in both varieties of tumors, proving the drug combination effective.

“Having more potential treatment options for EGFR mutant lung cancer is great news for patients.”added Pasi A. Jänne, MD, PhD, director of the Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology at Dana-Farber and scientific director of the Belfer Institute for Applied Cancer Science at Dana-Farber