It has been a little while since I did anything on this blog but add links into my job search pages, but a couple of articles caught my eye this week. One makes use of insulin growth factor (IGF) with a chemotherapy agent attached to it, as a Trojan Horse to target the cancer cells. The other uses minicells generated from mutant bacteria, which then deliver a payload of a chemotherapy agent to the site in question via an antibody.
The insulin therapy, reported in the Star-Tribune, talks about a company called IGF Oncology, which has a great story and a promising therapy. It is not quite clear from the article exactly how it works, but it appears to be targeting the IGF receptor (I found this blog on that subject), which can help a cancer cell survive attack from chemotherapy. While the initial results from their study are encouraging, the potential for side effects is still there, as normal cells also have the IGF receptor. Raising the money needed for a further (much more expensive) study will be challenging.
The minicells, reported in the New York Times, are another approach which seems to be more advanced in its path toward validation. The bacterial minicells are loaded with something that will attack the cancer cells or interfere with multidrug resistance. They are also coated with antibodies, allowing them to reach the cancer cells selectively. When presented with a bacterial infection, the cancer cells respond by attacking and destroying the minicell, which releases its payload at the site of the cancer.
This is a very neat idea and results in animals (mice, dogs and monkeys) have been spectacular – more than 20 dogs with advanced brain cancer were treated and all of them responded with some in remission. Given how difficult it is to treat brain cancer, this is impressive.
A lot of cancer therapies have been harsh. The patient is dying, so the fact that the drug is hurting the patient slightly less than the cancer is seen as an improvement. Though there is a long way to go yet, with these or other treatments, a goal of more selective and less destructive therapies is definitely a worthwhile target.