Squamous cell cancers of the head and neck that express a cell surface receptor, called CCR7, are less likely to respond to current therapies. Combining drugs that block this receptor with existing agents might improve patient outcomes.
Robert L. Ferris, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and colleagues previously found that the chemokine receptor 7 (CCR7) is frequently active in metastatic squamous cell cancers of the head and neck.
In the current study, Ferris and colleagues used cancer cell lines and tumor cells isolated from primary and metastatic head and neck tumors to examine patterns of CCR7 activation. They also looked for expression of the ligands that stimulate the receptor.
Treatment of cells isolated from metastatic tumors with an anti-CCR7 antibody, which blocked activation of the receptor, reduced cell survival by 31 percent, compared with a 19.5 percent reduction in viability after treatment with a targeted therapy, called erlotinib, that is already being used in squamous cell head and neck cancer treatment. Combining the anti-CCR7 antibody and erlotinib, resulted in a 59.5 percent drop in cell survival. The researchers found that both the tumor environment and the tumor cells themselves can produce the ligand that stimulated CCR7 and those tumors that did so were more resistant to standard chemotherapy.
"The results of this study offer additional evidence that this chemokine receptor plays an important role in [squamous cell cancer of the head and neck] progression and in resistance to chemotherapies," the authors write.
This research was published March 25, 2008 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Materials provided by Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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