Lung cancer drug shows promise as targeted therapy for breast cancer

Lung cancer drug shows promise as targeted therapy for breast cancer


At the Breast Cancer Now Research Centre here at the Institute of Cancer Research, we have discovered that a lung cancer drug has the potential to treat thousands of women with breast cancer. We found that a drug can kill breast cancer cells with a particular genetic defect that causes the cells to have a faulty version of a protein called E-cadherin. In normal cells E-cadherin works like velcro it helps bind the cells together but defects in E-cadherin are common in cancer and can cause cancer cells to then grow and divide abnormally. Here in Professor Chris Lord’s lab, with funding from Breast Cancer Now, we’ve been studying E-cadherin defects. They occur in over 13% of all breast cancer cases and are seen in up to 90% of all lobular breast cancers, where the tumour has formed in the milk-producing lobes. This type of E-cadherin defect can also occur in triple-negative breast cancers. We took 80 small molecule inhibitors to see whether any of these drugs could specifically target this E-cadherin defect and kill these cells that have these E-cadherin mutations. And what we were really excited to find was that this drug crizotinib was able to specifically kill these tumour cells that had these E-cadherin defects and leave the healthy cells relatively unaffected. Crizotinib is a drug that’s used for a particular type of lung cancer. It works by inhibiting ROS1 in cancer cells. And this new research has identified that a particular type of breast cancer is potentially very sensitive to crizotinib and inhibiting ROS1. We’re now about to launch a clinical trial that’s going to be run from the ICR and the Royal Marsden. To enable us to take this clinical trial forwards we’ve had funding from Breast Cancer Now and their Catalyst Programme. That has funded the clinical trial to over £750,000. In this trial we’re going to take forward this very exciting observation from the lab, and work out if it can translate to benefit for patients in the clinic. I’m hoping that this approach will prove effective for thousands of women with breast cancer, with a defect in this particular gene.

2 Replies to “Lung cancer drug shows promise as targeted therapy for breast cancer”

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