New research could help fine-tune cancer treatment

Researchers at University of East Anglia have carried out a new study, findings of which they believe could help fine-tune cancer treatment.

The team published their findings in journal EMBO Reports wherein they have stated that cancer therapies that cut off blood supply to a tumour could be more effective in combination with existing chemotherapeutic drugs.

Researchers reveal that tumour growth is better-reduced in mice when the expression of a particular protein called Beta3-integrin is targeted in combination with drugs that are already used in cancer patients. It is hoped that the findings could help fine-tune treatment for cancer patients and revitalise an interest in the use of microtubule targeting agents (MTAs) which are commonly used as chemotherapies in cancer patients.

The research team has long looked at Beta3-integrin as a better anti-angiogenic target because the protein is not expressed in normal blood vessels, but is expressed in tumour blood vessels. This reduces the potential for unwanted side effects.

Now the team has shown that targeting Beta3-integrin in combination with microtubule targeting agents, which are widely used in cancer patients, works better than targeting Beta3-integrin alone. Microtubules are protein structures in cells that help them move and divide.

Specifically researchers looked at how Beta3-integrin and microtubules interact with one another in the cells that line blood vessels (endothelial cells), and showed that microtubules behave differently when Beta3-integrin levels are reduced; the microtubules become more sensitive to the chemotherapies that are used to hit them.

Researchers say that the protein, Beta3-integrin, has been the focus of drug design over the last two decades because its expression is vastly increased in endothelial cells during blood vessel recruitment to tumours. They have found that if the protein Beta3-integrin is targeted in combination with the use of microtubule targeting agents (MTAs), it could be a good way to stop tumours recruiting a blood supply to grow.