Turbo-Charging Chemotherapy For Lung Cancer

Source: Garvan Institute for Medical Research

Summary: According to new findings, a naturally occurring hormone could help make chemotherapy much more effective for many Australians with lung cancer.

Despite advances in immunotherapy for lung cancer, most patients are still treated with chemotherapy based on a drug called cisplatin. However, less than a third of these patients will see benefits, and they often develop serious side effects including kidney damage. In an effort to improve outcomes for lung cancer patients, discovered that a protein called activin is a culprit in both chemotherapy resistance and chemotherapy-induced kidney damage. And the hormone – known as follistatin – also appears to prevent kidney damage, a serious side effect of chemotherapy. The promising new ‘two birds, one stone’ treatment approach, which was successful in mice. In a new study, researchers from the Garvan Institute for Medical Research found that a naturally occurring hormone could help make chemotherapy much more effective for many Australians with lung cancer. The study findings were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Cancer treatment

Professor Neil Watkins with team members Rachael McCloy, Dr Alvaro Rajal and Venessa Chin — Garvan Institute of Medical Research — Sydney. Credit: Garvan Institute of Medical Research

The research team put follistatin to the test. They found that, in mice, treatment of follistatin in combination with platinum chemotherapy caused lung tumours to shrink and more animals to survive longer. Remarkably, they found that kidney damage was also prevented. Discoveries like this one, a combination therapy that actually reduces damage while improving the effectiveness of chemotherapy are exceedingly rare in cancer research. The use of follistatin is likely to be a safe and effective approach to making chemotherapy more effective in lung cancer. Because follistatin is a hormone already found in the human body, there is much less potential for toxicity than with other drugs used to reduce chemoresistance. The team now plans to study other tumours where platinum chemotherapy is commonly used, such as bladder and head and neck cancers.

Prof Neil Watkins said, “In chemotherapy-resistant tumours in mice, activin gets switched on in response to the damage caused by chemotherapy” and further added, “Cancer cells can then enlist activin to protect themselves. At the same time, when activin is switched on, it promotes kidney injury.”

More Information: K.D. Marini et al., “Inhibition of activin signaling in lung adenocarcinoma increases the therapeutic index of platinum chemotherapy,” Science Translational Medicine (2018). stm.sciencemag.org/lookup/doi/ … scitranslmed.aat3504

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