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Drug-Radiation Combination Eradicates Lung Cancer in Mice

Combination of an investigative drug (BEZ235) and low-dose radiation eliminates non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in mice, according to results of a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and collaborators including Novartis Pharma. NSCLC is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. The researchers found that if they administered BEZ235 before they damaged the DNA of tumor cells with otherwise nontoxic radiation, the drug blocked the pro-survival actions of a protein called PI3K, which normally springs into action to keep tumor cells alive while they repair DNA damage. The researchers tested their novel therapeutic strategy in mice transplanted with NSCLC cells obtained from patients. They found that tumors in the mice treated with BEZ235 alone were significantly smaller than those in mice not given the drug. Although the tumors stopped growing, they did not die. By contrast, tumors were completely eradicated in mice treated with a combination of BEZ235 and radiation. “These early results suggest that the drug-radiation combination might be an effective therapy in lung cancer patients,” said Dr. Pier Paolo Scaglioni, senior author of the study. The report was published in the October 1 issue of Cancer Research. [Press release] [Cancer Research abstract]