Combination Therapy For Brain Tumors Holds Promise For Longer Survival After,,Surgery

blished in a September issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

ErbB receptors are a family of four proteins and are widely expressed in many tumors; but, when mutated or overexpressed at very high levels, lead to abnormal enzyme activity and deregulated cell growth. "The mutated or overexpressed receptors tend to be associated with cancers of the brain, breast, ovary, prostate, and pancreas," explains lead author O'Rourke. "There are either more receptors on the cell than normal or the ones that are there are more active."

The researchers are aiming for a more targeted approach than radiation and chemotherapy to kill cancer cells that remain after surgery. "ErbBs are a natural target to block," says O'Rourke. "There's more of a biological likelihood that we may impact this disease and minimize side effects using this strategy."

The group is currently working on several ways to inactivate erbB receptor proteins. One is a form of gene therapy to make cancer cells express a non-active receptor. "The second form of inhibition, which is even more promising, will be the use of smaller compounds called peptide mimetics," says O'Rourke. "These compounds are less complicated and work directly on the cell surface, eliminating the need to get to the cell's nucleus, as with gene therapy." The team is currently designing human clinical trials, notes O'Rourke, but they're still about six to twelve months away from starting trials.


Contact: Karen Young Kreeger
(215) 614-0290
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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