A number of ALK inhibitors have been developed for various forms of cancer. While important breakthroughs, the drugs have proven to be ineffective in treating pediatric neuroblastoma. Some of the medications also produce resistance such that patients suffer a relapse, often within two years in the case of lung cancer.
In other words, new treatment strategies are badly needed.
In collaboration with partners at Umeå University and Harvard, Dr. Bengt Hallberg and Dr. Ruth Palmer of Sahlgrenska Academy have found a combination treatment that offers the promise of more effective options.
At center stage is the MYCN oncogene, which can act together with ALK to expedite cell division, leading to the onset of cancer.
Demonstrates the mechanism
Previous studies by the Gothenburg researchers had shown that ALK regulates the ERK5 protein to promote expression of MYCN. The new study in Science Signaling demonstrates the mechanism of the process. Not only that, but the study finds that a combination of ALK and ERK5 inhibitors can retard neuroblastoma proliferation in various models.
“The discovery offers an entirely new approach,” says Dr. Hallberg, who coordinated the study. “The combination works synergistically to reduce the expression of MYCN.”
In addition to opening the door to new treatment of pediatric neuroblastoma, as well as other tumors that overexpress ALK and MYCN, Dr. Hallberg says that the findings can benefit lung cancer patients right away.
“The Kinase ALK Stimulates the Kinase ERK5 to Promote the Expression of the Oncogene MYCN in Neuroblastoma” was published online in Science Signaling on October 28. The journal also noted the article on its editorial page.
Dr. Bengt Hallberg, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg
Phone: +46 31 786 3815
Cell: +46 70 566 5742
BY: Krister Svahn