A team of scientists from The University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, working in collaboration with Evgen Pharma, have developed a new drug combination that may overcome relapse and treatment resistance in patients with breast cancer.
Results from the research, which will be presented on Monday during the annual conference of the American Association of Cancer Research, revealed Sulforadex helps overcome resistance to hormonal therapy by targeting the cancer stem cell population in the most usual type of breast cancer, which affects about 70% of patients with breast cancer.
Many women who initially respond to hormonal therapy with compounds like tamoxifen tend to relapse and develop resistance due to the activation of the Wnt signaling pathway, a gene involved in development and growth of breast tumors.
Traditional treatment aims at reducing the levels estrogen or blocking the function of the “estrogen receptor” (ER) expression, which accounts for about 70% of breast cancers. In this new study, the team found that the ER is not expressed in cancer stem cells, which cause tumors to spread and regrow. This means that these stem cells aren’t inhibited in traditional treatments and have the capacity for tumor regrowth.
The new drug combination combines Sulforadex with typical hormonal treatments, targeting at the same time both the estrogen-sensitive cells and the remaining breast cancer stem cells.
Dr. Robert Clarke from the University’s Institute of Cancer Sciences said in a recent news release: “The hormonal therapies we use today are very good at treating breast cancer tumors driven by estrogen. “However, they don’t completely solve the problem. This combination of drugs potentially allows us to target estrogen-sensitive cells, whilst also mopping up the cells which cause treatment resistance.”
For the study, the researchers used samples from treatment resistant cells from patients with breast cancer. Within the next months, the researchers aim to recruit patients for the trial.
Dr. David Howat, Head of Research and Development at Evgen Pharma said in the news release: “We are really excited about the data presented at the AACR. Dr Rob Clarke and his excellent research team have demonstrated the efficacy of Sulforadex in patient derived cancer tissues in vitro and, importantly, in an in vivo setting. “We now intend to extend this collaboration and advance Sulforadex into a clinical trial with breast cancer patients.”