Drug triggers cell suicide in mice with cancer

A new small-molecule drug developed by cancer researchers has a remarkable effect in mice--it jump-starts a tumor-destroying system in the body, essentially driving cancer cells to suicide while protecting healthy tissue.

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University in Hershey, PA, have found that the molecule TIC10 activates the gene for the protein TRAIL (tumor-necrosis-factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand)--a target used by cancer researchers seeking to develop new drugs that don't cause the debilitating effects of conventional therapies like chemotherapy.

Three weeks after researchers implanted brain tumors in mice, the ones treated with the new drug recovered better than the untreated animals. The molecule was effective at killing cancer cells in a number of different tumors, including breast, lymphatic, colon and lung cancer and was especially potent against glioblastoma, the most aggressive malignant brain tumor in humans.

Mice with glioblastomas that were given a drug cocktail of TIC10 and bevacizumab, a brain tumor drug sold under the name Avastin, survived three times longer than untreated mice. Mice treated with only TIC10 survived 6% longer than mice given just bevacizumab.

The TIC10 compound is a small molecule that can, unlike most protein drugs, slip through the blood-brain barrier to combat brain tumors, according to Nature. This makes the molecule distinctive because this barrier blocks most anti-cancer drugs, keeping them out of the brain.

This is not the first study to find a mechanism that's believed to trigger cell death in cancer, and TRAIL-based therapeutics are still very much in the beginning stages of research.

- read the story in Nature

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