This two-drug combo can shrink breast cancer tumors

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In a new study from McGill University, researchers discovered a new targeted combination drug therapy that efficiently reduces tumor growth in metastatic breast cancer.

Their findings could lead to the development of a new first-line targeted therapy for the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), with the prospect of rapidly transitioning to clinical trials in humans.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women around the world, responsible for 1,700 deaths every day.

Although the vast majority of breast cancers are treatable, the most aggressive subtype—TNBC—has a high recurrence rate, a high potential for metastasis, and shows resistance to conventional treatments, leading to poor prognosis and survival outcomes.

Currently, there is no targeted therapy for TNBC. Chemotherapy treatment can even enrich these tumors in cancer stem cells and be detrimental to the patient.

In the study, the team used state-of-the-art technologies such as gene editing and genome-wide molecular approaches. They identified two pathways that they could target in a therapeutic strategy.

In the first part of the study, researchers identified about 150 genes that could either induce tumor formation (oncogenes) or prevent tumor formation (tumor suppressors).

The team then showed that in TNBC an oncogenic pathway (MTOR) is activated whereas a tumor suppressor pathway (HIPPO) is inhibited, which could possibly explain why those tumors are so aggressive and deadly.

The researchers looked at existing drugs that could target these pathways and made experiments in vitro and in vivo.

As a result, they found two efficient drugs: Torin1, a second generation drug known to block the MTOR pathway, and verteporfin, a drug normally used for a retina eye disease that can mimic the HIPPO pathway.

They mixed the two drugs together and tested whether the two drugs were acting independently or in synergy.

They found the two drugs acted in a synergistic manner and efficiently reduced tumor growth.

The results of this study define a new approach to efficiently prevent tumor formation and reduce the tumor burden, i.e., the size of a tumor, or the amount of cancer in the body.

The proposed combination therapy for TNBC patients will help fill an important medical gap in the metastatic breast cancer field.

If you care about breast cancer, please read studies about drug metformin can affect breast cancer risk in women with diabetes and findings of widely used blood pressure drugs may increase death risk in breast cancer.

For more information about breast cancer and treatment, please see recent studies about what women need to know about breast cancer and heart disease and results showing a major cause of deadly breast cancer.

The study is published in Nature Communications. One author of the study is Jean-Jacques Lebrun.

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