The drug rapamycin may prove to be a useful adjunct to chemotherapy, research in the 18 March 2004 issue of Nature (Vol. 428, No. 6980, pp. 332-337) suggests. The combined approach prevents some tumours from building up resistance to standard anti-cancer medicines.
Mice with a type of B-cell lymphoma - a cancer of antibody-producing B cells that is caused by the genes Myc and Akt - are resistant to standard chemotherapy, report Scott W. Lowe and colleagues. But when the animals are given rapamycin in combination with chemotherapy, their tumours become sensitive to the anti-cancer drugs.
Rapamycin targets one of the signalling pathways regulated by Akt, a protein that has been implicated in cell survival. But not all tumours express Akt or activate this pathway, so the combination therapy may only work in those that do, the authors caution.
The results point to a possible strategy for reversing drug resistance in human cancers, and underline the importance of tailoring cancer therapy to a tumour's genetic make-up. "The clinical importance of these results is obvious," says Frank McCormick in an accompanying News and Views article. "Indeed, clinical trials of rapamycin and its analogues in combination with other chemotherapeutic agents are already underway."
Scott W. Lowe
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Cold Spring Harbor, NY
Tel: +1 516 367 8406
University of California at San Francisco
Tel: +1 415 502 1710
(C) Nature press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza
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