Two-Drug Therapy Could Keep Cancer from Growing, Spreading
July 23, 2013 2:11 PM
It's not a cure just yet, but could lead to one
cure for cancer
looks to be on the horizon as researchers use multiple drug therapies to gang up on mutations and keep the disease from spreading.
Harvard University researchers -- led by Martin Nowak, a professor of mathematics and of biology and director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, and Ivana Bozic, a postdoctoral fellow in mathematics -- combined two drugs in an effort to prevent cancer from growing and spreading.
It's not a cure yet, mainly because the researchers have only developed the method -- not the actual drugs.
The team discovered the method by
studying a data set
supplied by clinicians at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, which shows how cancer patients reacted to a single-drug therapy.
Using that data, the team made computer models that simulated how patients would respond to multi-drug therapies. They treated virtual patients with the two-drug method, which was given simultaneously, and compared the results with single-drug therapies.
"For a single-drug therapy, we know there are between 10 and 100 places in the genome that, if mutated, can give rise to resistance," said Nowak. "So the first parameter we use when we make our calculations is that the first drug can be defeated by those possible mutations. The second drug can also be defeated by 10 to 100 mutations.
"If any of those mutations are the same, then it's a disaster. If there's even a single mutation that can defeat both drugs, that is usually good enough for the cancer -- it will become resistant, and treatment will fail. What this means is we have to develop drugs such that the cancer needs to make two independent steps -- if we can do that, we have a good chance to contain it."
The idea is to create two completely different drugs that aim for different pathways in the cancer's development and growth process. These drugs also cannot be capable of faltering to the same mutation, or they're both wiped out.
The team even said that three-drug therapies could be used to take on stronger forms of cancer.
Nowak said that many cancer deaths would likely be prevented in about 50 years.
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