A study by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center has indicated that a combination of drugs targeting epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and tumour necrosis factor (TNF) can treat most of the lung cancers.
Researchers found that a combination of drugs–one targeting EGFR and one targeting TNF–effectively blocks the cancer from using TNF as an escape route. Using a mouse model, the researchers showed that when TNF is also blocked, the cancer becomes sensitive to EGFR treatment.
They believe that the approach will be effective in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and are planning to conduct a Phase II clinical trial over the coming months.
The team based the work on previous preclinical findings, where the anti-EGFR/TNF combination was effective against a type of brain cancer called glioblastoma. They intend to recruit glioblastoma patients for the Phase II study.
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center neurology and neurotherapeutics associate professor Dr Amyn Habib said: “There has been a tremendous effort over the past several years to block EGFR as a treatment for lung cancer, but this therapy only works in a small subset of patients.
“Blocking both of these proteins could be a treatment that is beneficial for the majority of lung cancer patients.”
An additional benefit of the combination is that both EGFR and TNF inhibitors are well-tolerated and target selective molecules within tumours, leading to reduced side-effects.
Researchers hope that the new strategy can be applied to other cancers characterised by EGFR expression such as brain, colon, and head and neck cancers.