In February, MesotheliomaHelp reported that patients who drink cola could increase the effectiveness of the anti-cancer treatment erlotinib, a drug used to treat lung cancer and mesothelioma. Now, researchers report that patients may also increase the effectiveness of the drug by taking a diuretic along with the therapy.
Researchers from Imperial College London and Fudan University in China collaborated in an effort to find a way to increase the effectiveness of treatment by erlotinib, a kinase inhibitor, by tackling the drug resistance lung cancer cells inevitably develop. In an in-lab study on mouse models with human cancer cells harboring the EGFR lung cancer mutation, the team found that by adding a simple diuretic found in blood pressure medicine to erlotinib they “reversed resistance to the drug, and enabled it to kill lung cancer cells.”
“Although these are very early-stage results, and are yet to be applied to patients in trials, they suggest the addition of a very cheap diuretic may extend the amount of time we can use the cancer drug erlotinib,” said Professor Michael Seckl, lead author from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial, in a Sept. 27 press release from Imperial College London. “This could potentially provide patients with more treatment options and save money in financially challenged health services.”
Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a cancer found in the outer lining of the lungs caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. Pleural mesothelioma is highly aggressive and does not always respond to cancer treatments. Both lung cancer and mesothelioma have proven to develop a resistance over time to the very drugs designed to kill the cancer cells. Finding a way to prevent this resistance can increase survival and improve the patients’ quality of life.
The researchers found that by raising glutahione levels, a natural antioxidant, the resistance to erlotinib was reversed. They then found that the “simple and cheap diuretic” ethacrynic acid, used to treat swelling caused by high blood pressure, raised gluhatione levels leading to increased sensitivity to erlotinib.
Erlotinib, or Tarceva® from Genentech Inc., is prescribed for some mesothelioma patients and in nearly 30 percent of non-small cell lung cancer patients, or 85 percent of all lung cancer cases, according to the researchers.
Various studies on mesothelioma have confirmed that developing an effective kinase inhibitor may be the key to developing drugs that kill mesothelioma cancer cells. Other kinase inhibitors used to treat mesothelioma include gefitinib and dasatinib.
“We urgently need new treatments for lung cancer patients, and this research suggests we can boost the effectiveness of an existing drug, rather than switch to another new expensive treatment,” said Seckl. “We are now seeking funding to enable patient trials within the next three years.”
Read the full report in the Sept. 27 issue of Cell Discovery.