Drug may be breakthrough to treat lung cancer

The development of a drug to treat the most common type of lung cancer is a step closer, thanks to research from PhD student, Mohamed Saad, and laboratory head, Professor Brendan Jenkins, at Hudson Institute. The breakthrough to potential treatment for lung adenocarcinoma has been the discovery of how to inhibit the cancer-causing gene, KRAS.

Professor Brendan Jenkins and Dr Mohamed Saad outlining a drug targeting ADAM17
L–R: Dr Mohamed Saad and Professor Brendan Jenkins

Scientists already recognised KRAS is a common cause of lung adenocarcinoma, because when this gene mutates unexpectedly – in about one third of lung cancer cases – it can lead to the development and spread of cancer cells. What they didn’t know was that an enzyme, ADAM17, could directly impact on KRAS and its ability to control proliferation of lung cancer cells. The discovery of this relationship has opened a pathway to an effective treatment in KRAS mutant lung cancers.

Now, research, published in EMBO Molecular Medicine, has shown how a drug targeting ADAM17, and thus indirectly inhibiting the role of KRAS, could provide effective treatment for lung cancer patients. The drug supresses the mutant KRAS gene’s ability to spread cancer cells in the lung. The drug is being developed at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, with support from Kiel University in Germany, while its effectiveness is being tested at Hudson Institute.

“Lung cancer is often diagnosed at a late stage for which there are little to no effective treatments, and is also associated with poor relative survival rates. Our findings pave the way for the development of new drugs that can be used to help target one of the most common lung cancers, lung adenocarcinoma,” Mohamed said.

Next steps

The Hudson Institute-led team will now explore the development of this drug, in collaboration with colleagues in Israel and Germany, as a new therapy in human lung adenocarcinoma patients. They hope to provide patients with more treatment options.

Lung adenocarcinoma facts

Each year, 1.8 million people worldwide are diagnosed with lung cancer. From that figure, about 85 per cent are classified as having non-small lung cancer. Of this 85 per cent, about 40 per cent will be classified as having lung adenocarcinoma. This statistic makes it the most common form of lung cancer.

Collaborators | Garvan Institute, Monash University, RMIT University, Kiel University (Germany),  Nagoya University (Japan), Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel).

Funders | National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), United States Department of Defence, Victorian Government (Department of Health and Human Services).

Team | Mohamed Saad, Sultan Alhayyani, Louise McLeod,  Liang Yu, Mohammad Alanazi, Virginie Deswaerte, Ke Tang, Thierry Jarde, Julian Smith, Zdenka Prodanovic, Michelle Tate, Jesse Balic, Neil Watkins, Jason Cain, Steven Bozinovski, Elizabeth Algar, Saleela Ruwanpura, (Hudson Institute), Tomohiro Kohmoto, Hiromichi Ebi  (Japan), Walter Ferlin (Switzerland), Stefan Rose-John, Christopher Garbers (Germany),  Irit Sagi (Israel) , Brendan Jenkins (Hudson Institute).

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