A new understanding of lung cancer cells “memories” suggest a new strategy for improving lung cancer treatment, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) researchers. In this research, they have found that some lung cancer cells retain a memory of healthy cell where they came from and that can be exploited to make an emerging type of lung cancer treatment called KRAS inhibition.
In this study, they specifically looked at lung adenocarcinoma, a type of non-small cell lung cancer. It is among the most common types of lung cancers in the United States and accounts for about 7% of all cancers deaths. This MSK study was published in Cancer Discovery and sheds light on potential strategy to enhance the efficacy of KRAS inhibition.
The findings of the team shed important light on lung cancer cells that linger after treatment with a KRAS inhibitor. KRAS plays a useful role in regulating cell growth and division. These KRAS inhibitors work to control this mutation growth by greatly diminishing tumors. But, they still leave behind some cancer cells that are not sensitive to the drug. The researchers have studied these residual cancer cells to uncover the mechanisms of this resistance using genetically engineered mouse models. They found that the cancer cells that remained after lung cancer treatment were AT1-like cells and they have the capacity to reignite cancer’s runaway growth. They also discovered that eliminating those cells in experimental models is relatively easy when compared to doing so in clinic as it will require further research.
The traditional view of KRAS proteins as undruggable has evolved with approval of KRAS inhibitors in last few years. Now that they have done these experiments, the next step would be to find surface proteins that are unique to such AT1-like cells and can kill them.
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