Cancer Resistant Genes Identified In UK Chemotherapy Breakthrough

A doctor with a chemotherapy patient

The genes are most commonly found in head and neck cancers. Credit: Freepik

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London have made a significant breakthrough in understanding and potentially overcoming chemotherapy resistance in head and neck cancer.

They have identified two crucial genes responsible for this resistance, offering hope for more effective treatments and personalised cancer care in the future.

These two genes, NEK2 and INHBA, have been found to make head and neck cancer patients resistant to chemotherapy.

Silencing either of these genes can re-sensitise cancer cells that were previously unresponsive to chemotherapy, presenting a potential game-changer in cancer treatment.

One aspect of this discovery is that these genes are not limited to head and neck cancer; they are active in most types of human cancer.

This suggests that the implications of this research could extend to various other cancer types that exhibit high levels of these genes, offering new avenues for treatment development.

In addition to identifying these critical genes, the researchers screened a chemical library, commonly used in drug discovery.

They successfully identified two substances, sirodesmin A (a fungal toxin) and carfilzomib (derived from bacteria), capable of specifically targeting these genes.

When administered alongside standard chemotherapy drugs like cisplatin, these substances made resistant cancer cells nearly 30 times more responsive to treatment.

This finding not only offers a potential solution but also highlights the possibility of repurposing existing drugs to combat new causes of disease, potentially reducing costs and expediting treatment development, reported InfoSalus on Monday, September 4.

Dr. Muy-Teck Teh, the lead author of the study, emphasised the promising nature of these results.

He sees them as a significant step toward providing cancer patients with personalised treatment based on their genetic and tumour characteristics, potentially leading to higher survival rates and more effective therapies.

This approach could be a life-saver for patients who do not respond well to conventional chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) poses unique challenges in cancer treatment.

The research sheds light on why some patients do not respond as expected and provides a potential solution.

Currently, all HNSCC patients receive similar treatment combinations, regardless of the genetic makeup of their cancer.

This groundbreaking research offers hope for more targeted and effective treatments, ultimately improving outcomes for cancer patients.

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Written by

Jo Pugh

Jo Pugh is a journalist based in the Costa Blanca North. Originally from London, she has been involved in journalism and photography for 20 years. She has lived in Spain for 12 years, and is a dedicated and passionate writer.