Study Suggests How Some Lung Cancers Might “Beat” Chemo

According to a publication from Augusta University, a recent study lung cancer patients receiving chemotherapy provided a possible explanation for some cancers’ ability to resist treatment.

The research, conducted by teams from the Medical College of Georgia and the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University, may pave the way for more innovative and more effective therapies in the future.

About Lung Cancer

In the United States, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths by a considerable margin. Smokers and people exposed to secondhand smoke are the most at risk — continued exposure to cigarette or other smoke (which is made up of small, heated particles) can cause damage to the lungs and other parts of the airway.

Lung cancers are generally classified into two groups — small cell and non-small cell. The names refer to the general shape of the cancer cells under observation. Small cell lung cancer is much less common, and occurs almost exclusively in smokers. Treatment options between the two types can vary.

Although overwhelmingly present in smokers, some people may be exposed to hazardous air quality without knowing. Radon gas, asbestos, and other airborne carcinogens can also cause lung cancer. Some patients will develop lung cancer without being exposed to air pollutants once in their lives.

Treatments available for lung cancer are similar to other standard cancer therapies, including surgery, targeted medication, radiation, and chemotherapy. The particular treatments available may depend on numerous factors like the size of the cancer cells or the age and general health of the patient.

How Some Cancers “Beat” Chemo

New research from the Medical College of Georgia and the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta suggests that certain non-small cell lung cancers might have particularly high levels of TIMP-1, an inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). MMPs play an important role breaking down proteins and other biological molecules. Normally MMPs are released after an injury to “clean up” a repair site before healing. Molecules like TIMP-1 limit the activity of MMPs to prevent damage to healthy tissue.

Cancer cells depend on “hijacking” the activity of MMPs to keep tumor sites clear. Because of this, TIMP-1 is usually only found in high doses in people with injuries or cancer.

The Georgia research also suggests that TIMP-1 levels are positively correlated to levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a cytokine partially responsible for controlling inflammatory immune responses. IL-6 has already been established to play a role in certain cancers’ treatment resistance.

TIMP-1 is theorized to be a regulator of cell death. When researchers introduced chemotherapy drugs to cells without TIMP-1, IL-6 levels dropped and cell death increased. Introducing TIMP-1 decreased cell deaths, but also increased cancer cells’ resistance to chemotherapy.

This study is the first of its kind to suggest that TIMP-1 drives IL-6 activity in certain non-small cell lung cancers.

What do you think of this study’s findings? How does treatment resistance present unique challenges to caregivers? Share your thoughts with Patient Worthy!

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