Celgene and Eisai drugs jointly killed kidney and breast cancer cells

Two blood cancer drugs separately marketed by Celgene ($CELG) and Eisai killed multiple cell lines of kidney and breast cancer in a new Mayo Clinic Florida laboratory study.

Celgene markets Istodax (romidepsin), an FDA approved treatment for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma it acquired after snatching up Gloucester Pharmaceuticals in 2009 for about $640 million. Eisai markets the FDA-approved Dacogen (decitabine), a leukemia-related drug it licenses from Astex Pharmaceuticals. An FDA advisory panel recommended not approving Dacogen earlier this year for expanded use as a treatment for acute myeloid leukemia.

Mayo researchers say the drugs worked together to activate a strong tumor suppressor gene--sFRP1--that is typically shut down in both triple negative breast cancer and clear cell renal cell carcinoma, both metastatic cancers. Once sFRP1 came to life, the tumor cells in the lab stopped growing and subsequently died. The work of senior investigator John Copeland and his team built on their earlier efforts that determined sFRP1 is silenced in some cancers. With their new research, they see new hope in using romidepsin, a histone deacetylase inhibitor and decitabine, a methyltransferase inhibitor, together--both epigenetic drugs.

While much more work needs to be done, they hope the study leads to a biopsy/diagnostic test that could specifically spot patients with these cancers who have tumors that lost their sFRP1 function. Such a test would then lead to personalized, highly targeted cancer treatment. They say they are hoping the approach can combat other tumors where sFRP1 is also disabled, such as colon, ovarian, lung and liver cancers.

The National Institutes of Health, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and a number of private and hospital foundations/endowments funded the study. For details, read the online issue of the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.

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