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New drug treats small-cell lung cancer

Scientists have discovered that a new drug could be used to treat small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer is the more aggressive primary form of the disease, spreading faster than the more common non-small cell lung cancer which accounts for more than 80% of cases.

Research that was published in the Clinical Cancer Research journal not only identifies the new drug as a new way to stop tumour growth, but also as an innovative approach to treating those whose tumours have become resistant to chemotherapy. The study also showed which patients are most likely to respond to the treatment – all of which could be paving the ground for further treatment for small cell lung cancer patients.

Professor Caroline Dive from the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute led the research and said: “Small cell lung cancer tends to have a dismal prognosis and we have seen little improvement in treatment for many years. More targeted forms of therapies are needed to help those patients whose tumours become resistant to chemotherapy. The new drug AZD3965 is currently in clinical trials.”

Lung cancer is one of the biggest cancerous killers in the UK, with over 13.1% of cancer cases being diagnosed as lung cancer each year – over 43,000 cases, but with over 35,000 people dying from the disease each year.

Lung cancer tumours produce energy using glycosis, a process within the cell which requires less energy and produces something called lactate – something which aids in glucose breakdown. Molecules – known as monocarboxylate transporters (MCTs) – then move the lactate out of the cells. AZD3965, the newly discovered drug targets a module within these MCT molecules which increases the level of lactate in cells and more importantly, reduces tumour growth.

The research team looked at tumour samples taken from lung cancer patients and found that high levels of the module within the MCT molecule were linked to worse patient prognosis.

Professor Dive added: “We propose that this drug will be most useful in this subset of patients who have elevated MCT1 levels and need more effective treatments. Our results are promising and certainly provide encouragement to test this treatment clinically in patients with small cell lung cancer and investigate the utility of AZD3965 as a potential novel cancer treatment.”

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