Disturbing Discovery: New Generation of Targeted Cancer Drugs Cause Tumors To Become Drug Resistant and More Aggressive

Breast-cancer-cell

“In a modest-sized lab at the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego, scientists investigating how cancer cells develop resistance to drug treatments recently discovered something that surprised even the most seasoned members of the research team: A new generation of drugs that are currently among the most popular treatments for lung, breast and pancreatic cancers actually induce drug resistance and spur tumor growth.

“These popular cancer drugs, known as receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (RTKs), are actually making cancers stronger. That’s the bad news. The good news is that researchers believe they have found a way to eliminate that threat.

“Researchers found that two of the drugs — Erlotinib for lung cancer and Lapatinib for breast cancer — are effective for a while, but eventually stop killing cancer cells and begin prompting them to resist the drug and become more aggressive.

“ ‘We knew that cancer typically builds up a resistance to these and other drugs. But we did not know that these drugs actually induce tumor progression,’ said David Cheresh, Moores’ vice chair of pathology and the lead researcher on this study.”

Image: A breast cancer cell. London Research Institute EM Unit/Cancer Research UK