By the time the human genome was mapped, cancer researchers had already begun investigating the proteins that were encoded by these newly identified genes. As the molecular engines that control all functions of the body, scientists wanted to find out how proteins work to promote health, or malfunction to cause disease. Subsequently, their discoveries have led to the development of a whole new arsenal of therapies designed to target proteins in cancer cells. But not all patients respond to treatment with these targeted drugs, prompting researchers to look for molecular clues within tumor cells that cause resistance to treatment.
Now, cancer researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have identified a protein called EMP-1 that is present in the tumors of patients who fail to respond to treatment with gefitinib, or IressaTM, a drug that has limited success in the treatment of patients with non small-cell lung cancer – the most common and deadly form of lung cancer. The study, conducted in both laboratory tests and patients with advanced non small-cell lung cancer who were treated with gefitinib, is published on-line during the week of August 8 – 12, in an "Early Edition" of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and may ultimately help physicians identify patients who would benefit from treatment with gefitinib.
"Our results show that the EMP-1 protein is a biomarker for resistance to treatment with gefitinib and may enable us to identify patients who wont respond to the drug," said David Agus, M.D., senior author of the study and Research Director at the Louis Warschaw Prostate Cancer Center at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. "If we know who wont respond, we can explore other treatment options sooner and use gefitinib, when patients will benefit. This means we will be able to maximize use of this drug and treat more patients effectively."
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