Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New plan of attack in cancer fight: Two-drug combination, under certain circumstances, can eliminate disease

Date:
July 19, 2013
Source:
Harvard University
Summary:
New research shows that, under certain conditions, using two drugs in a "targeted therapy" -- a treatment approach designed to interrupt cancer's ability to grow and spread -- nearly all cancers could be effectively cured.

New research is laying out a road map to one of the holy grails of modern medicine: a cure for cancer.
Credit: Ivelin Radkov / Fotolia

New research conducted by Harvard scientists is laying out a road map to one of the holy grails of modern medicine: a cure for cancer.

As described in a paper recently published in eLife, Martin Nowak, a professor of mathematics and of biology and director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, and co-author Ivana Bozic, a postdoctoral fellow in mathematics, show that, under certain conditions, using two drugs in a "targeted therapy" -- a treatment approach designed to interrupt cancer's ability to grow and spread -- could effectively cure nearly all cancers.

Though the research is not a cure for cancer, Nowak said it does offer hope to researchers and patients alike.

"In some sense this is like the mathematics that allows us to calculate how to send a rocket to the moon, but it doesn't tell you how to build a rocket that goes to the moon," Nowak said. "What we found is that if you have a single point mutation in the genome that can give rise to resistance to both drugs at the same time, the game is over. We need to have combinations such that there is zero overlap between the drugs."

Importantly, Nowak said, for the two-drug combination to work, both drugs must be given together -- an idea that runs counter to the way many clinicians treat cancer today.

"We actually have to work against the status quo somewhat," he said. "But we can show in our model that if you don't give the drugs simultaneously, it guarantees treatment failure."

In earlier studies, Nowak and colleagues showed the importance of using multiple drugs. Though temporarily effective, single-drug targeted therapy will fail, the researchers revealed, because the disease eventually develops resistance to the treatment.

To determine if a two-drug combination would work, Nowak and Bozic turned to an expansive data set supplied by clinicians at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center that showed how patients respond to single-drug therapy. With data in hand, they were able to create computer models of how multidrug treatments would work. Using that model, they then treated a series of "virtual patients" to determine how the disease would react to the multidrug therapy.

"For a single-drug therapy, we know there are between 10 and 100 places in the genome that, if mutated, can give rise to resistance," Nowak explained. "So the first parameter we use when we make our calculations is that the first drug can be defeated by those possible mutations. The second drug can also be defeated by 10 to 100 mutations.

"If any of those mutations are the same, then it's a disaster," he continued. "If there's even a single mutation that can defeat both drugs, that is usually good enough for the cancer -- it will become resistant, and treatment will fail. What this means is we have to develop drugs such that the cancer needs to make two independent steps -- if we can do that, we have a good chance to contain it."

How good a chance?

"You would expect to cure most patients with a two-drug combination," Bozic said. "In patients with a particularly large disease burden you might want to use a three-drug combination, but you would cure most with two drugs."

The trick now, Nowak and Bozic said, is to develop those drugs.

To avoid developing drugs that are not vulnerable to the same mutation, Bozic said, pharmaceutical companies have explored a number of strategies, including using different drugs to target different pathways in cancer's development.

"There are pharmaceutical companies here in Cambridge that are working to develop these drugs," Nowak said. "There may soon be as many as 100 therapies, which means there will be as many as 10,000 possible combinations, so we should have a good repertoire to choose from.

"I think we can be confident that, within 50 years, many cancer deaths will be prevented," Nowak added. "One hundred years ago, many people died from bacterial infections, and now they would be cured. Today, many people die from cancer, and we can't help them, but I think once we have these targeted therapies, we will be able to help many people -- maybe not everyone -- but many people."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard University. The original article was written by Peter Reuell. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ivana Bozic, Johannes G Reiter, Benjamin Allen, Tibor Antal, Krishnendu Chatterjee, Preya Shah, Yo Sup Moon, Amin Yaqubie, Nicole Kelly, Dung T Le, Evan J Lipson, Paul B Chapman, Luis A Diaz, Bert Vogelstein, Martin A Nowak. Evolutionary dynamics of cancer in response to targeted combination therapy. eLife, 2013 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.00747.001

Cite This Page:

Harvard University. "New plan of attack in cancer fight: Two-drug combination, under certain circumstances, can eliminate disease." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130719112147.htm>.
Harvard University. (2013, July 19). New plan of attack in cancer fight: Two-drug combination, under certain circumstances, can eliminate disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130719112147.htm
Harvard University. "New plan of attack in cancer fight: Two-drug combination, under certain circumstances, can eliminate disease." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130719112147.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

AFP (July 24, 2014) America's death penalty debate raged Thursday after it took nearly two hours for Arizona to execute a prisoner who lost a Supreme Court battle challenging the experimental lethal drug cocktail. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins