The first targeted anticancer drug to specifically inhibit an enzyme that causes cancer cell growth might also promote tumour regression, according to an article published online this week in Leukemia. The drug - called Imatinib - works by inducing cellular autophagy - the process by which proteins and organelles are degraded within a cell, leading to cell death.
The study has implications for the way cancer, and particularly Chronic Myelogenous Leukaemia (CML), is treated. Imatinib use in combination with other autophagy-inducing drugs could potentially rapidly reduce the severity of a tumour.
Imatinib was designed to target a specific enzyme in CML, which disrupts the cell death pathway in cancer cells; thereby allowing them to multiply excessively. Hermann M Schätzl and colleagues now reveal that treatment with the drug results in the production of ring-shaped structures in the cell fluid that indicate the formation of autophagosomes - the structures essential for autophagy. Importantly, these structures are detected in cell lines from different tissues, providing hope that Imatinib may promote tumour regression in a variety of cancers. Furthermore, the authors show that this effect is dose-dependent, which has significant implications for the clinical application of the drug.
Hermann M Schätzl (Technical University of Munich, Germany)
Rachel Gonzaga (Leukemia, London, UK)
Abstract available online.
(C) Leukemia press release.
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