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Researchers at the Bellvitge Biomedical Institute (IDIBELL), led by Dr. Montse Sanchez-Cespedes, have proven the effectiveness of a new combination of drugs in treating a subtype of lung cancer in in vitro and in vivo studies.

The study, published in the journal Oncogene, states that “for the first time, a set of drugs used in combination has managed to slow tumor growth in this type of cancer”, said Dr. Sanchez-Cespedes.

In previous studies, the research group demonstrated that, in cell lines, treatment with retinoids and corticoids inhibits the growth and multiplication of cells in a type of lung cancer associated with a genetic alteration, the amplification of Myc family genes.

The current study demonstrates that when retinoids and corticoids are combined with two drugs such as azacitidine and SAHA, they have a synergic effect and are able to kill the cells by means of this genetic alteration.

Lack of treatment

Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide and is divided into two main types: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. “Myc amplification occurs in 30% of small cell lung cancer cases, which in turn accounts for 20% of lung cancer cases. This represents a considerable number of patients for whom there is no treatment available”, said Dr. Montse Sanchez-Cespedes.

The study also describes the genetic and epigenetic profiles of the tumor cells treated with the new drug combination. “These tumor cells, in general, are not very different to healthy cells, but when this treatment is administered we see an increase of cell differentiation markers; this indicates that the treatment causes changes at gene transcription level compatible with this increase”, concluded the researcher.


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