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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
Boston Globe Health and Science staff:
Karen Weintraub, Deputy Health and Science Editor, and Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor.
Short White Coat blogger Ishani Ganguli
Short White Coat blogger Jennifer Srygley
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Combining targeted drugs may work better against brain tumors, study says
Aggressive brain tumors receive more than one chemical signal telling them to grow, so more than one targeted drug should be used to shut these switches down, Dana-Farber researchers report.
Writing in the online edition of the journal Science, Dr. Ronald DePinho and his colleagues say they found many kinds of mutated cell-growth molecules sending abnormal signals at the same time, explaining why drugs such as Gleevec that target only one signaling pathway have only limited success.
The researchers were studying cells from glioblastoma multiforme, the most common kind of brain tumor and one of the most lethal forms of cancer people can have. The median survival time is about 12 months.
Testing a combination of three or more drugs, including Tarceva and Gleevec, the authors discovered they were able to block the abnormal signals and kill the cancer cells.
The authors recommend clinical trials to see if a combination of Gleevec, Tarceva and other compounds can thwart tumor cell growth. They also note that the signaling patterns they saw in brain tumors have been detected in cell lines of two other kinds of cancer with poor survival rates: lung and pancreatic.
And based on what they called proof-of-principle for personalized medicine, they suggest studying patients' tumor cells to see which switches are activated so the best drugs to block them can be used.