Towards personalised treatment for lung cancer

13th December 2017
Enaie Azambuja

Research aims to identify and characterise resistant lung cancer stem cells, and develop a model to customise drugs that can eradicate all cancer cells of an individual patient. This is the goal of researcher Mattias Magnusson, who received SEK 6 million from the Sjöberg Foundation to conduct this research project. Every year, close to 4 000 people in Sweden develop lung cancer. It is the fifth most common form of cancer in the country and the prognosis of lung cancer is worse than for many other cancer forms.

Most lung cancer patients are treated with chemotherapy that unspecifically kills all fast growing cells, which often results in severe side-effects. Mattias Magnusson says that several studies have shown that many types of cancer develop from cancer stem cells (CSCs) for which chemotherapy is less effective, which is probably the reason why the disease often relapses.

“However, we know very little about how CSCs are controlled, largely because we have not had the right tools to identify the cells. A complicating aspect is that the same cancer type can be caused by a large variety of genetic changes in different individuals.

Therefore, it is important to be able to evaluate which drugs are the most suitable for each individual patient in order to provide the optimal form of treatment”, says Mattias Magnusson, a researcher in molecular medicine and gene therapy at Lund University in Sweden.

To succeed, Mattias Magnusson and his colleagues plan to identify and characterise resistant lung CSCs, and develop a drug screening platform to personalise the combination of drugs needed to eradicate all cancerous cells (including cancerous stem cells) in each individual patient.

“The research project will be launched in early spring 2018, and it has a clear translational link to clinical practice as we will be using already approved drugs developed for other purposes, known as drug repurposing".

"It will also provide unique information on how lung cancer is controlled at the molecular level. Our hope is that our results will lead to fewer relapses and higher survival rates”, says Mattias Magnusson.

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