Researchers at the Penn State College of Medicine have discovered a new treatment for colon cancer that combines a breast cancer drug and a cancer-fighting antibody.
Wafik S. El-Deiry, M.D. Ph.D., American Cancer Society Research Professor and Rose Dunlap Professor and chief of hematology/oncology, and his team have tested lapatinib, a targeted chemotherapy agent currently approved for breast cancer treatment, in a new combination with artificial antibodies that mimic a natural cancer-fighting protein produced in the human body.
The monoclonal antibodies mapatumumab and lexatumumab act similarly to TRAIL — tumor necrosis factor [TNF]-related apoptosis-inducing ligand — a naturally occurring molecule in the body that tells a cell it is time to die. TRAIL sets a process in motion that targets and shuts down tumor cells and keeps them from spreading.
“These are therapeutic antibodies that are manufactured very efficiently, and given to patients,” said El-Deiry, who is also the associate director for translational research, Cancer Institute.
The TRAIL receptors — death receptors — on the cancer cells respond to TRAIL by dying. The artificial antibodies act as surrogates of TRAIL by activating the same signaling pathway resulting in tumor cell death.
Lapatinib increases the amount of ‘death receptor’ protein available for TRAIL to do its job — killing off cancerous cells.
The finding appears in this week’s issue of Science Translational Medicine.