Double Punch Urged for Lung Cancer

Lung cancer may respond to therapy targeting both JAK2 protein and STAT3 gene

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is a tough one, but researchers have found a new target for treating this disease. When added to other therapies, the combination might just deliver a knock-out punch.

New research is providing evidence that a combination of drugs is needed to take a meaningful blow against NSCLC. This upper left would target a newly discovered duo that exists in some cancerous cells - a particular gene - STAT3 - tangles with a protein called JAK2 to create havoc.

"Ask your oncologist if combination therapies may be appropriate for you."

The study conducted by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Van Andel Research Institute (VARI). Researchers conclude that this signaling, which is a heavy hitter in tumor cell behavior, isn't being dealt a blow with drugs that go after the individual mutations.

"This suggests that there may be a potential role for combination therapy, so you have a better chance of knocking out select NSCLC tumors driven by STAT3-JAK2, or keeping it at bay," said Dr. Glen Weiss, co-unit head of TGen's Lung Cancer Research Laboratory.

Here's what happens in some NSCLC. The JAK2 protein jacks up the STAT3 gene, which is part of a family of genes that control the growth and development of cells.

Overactive STAT3 genes are seen in other types of cancer, including breast, prostate, pancreas, leukemia and lymphoma.

In this study, researchers looked at seven NSCLC cell lines.  JAK3 activated STAT3 in some of the cell lines. This action was outside of the works of other cancer-causing genes. 

dailyRx Contributing Expert, Fred R. Hirsch, M.D., Ph.D, who was not involved in the study, explained, "The more we learn about molecular specific targeted therapies in lung cancer, the more we understand the importance of combining these targeted therapies in order to increase efficacy and to overcome developing resistance (disease relapse).

"It is evident that such combinations need to be examined through pre-clinical studies, and therefore, this result is very important and needs to be studied further in early clinical studies," said Dr. Hirsch, who is professor of medicine and pathology at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. 

This research was published online February 2, 2012 by the Public Library of Science (PLoS) ONE.

A TGen-VARI integration grant funded this study.

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Review Date: 
February 2, 2012
Last Updated:
February 2, 2012