MD Anderson takes experimental lung cancer drug into the clinic

UT's James Welsh

What's the next step for researchers focused on PD-1 and PD-L1, the two big targets for checkpoint inhibitors that are now hitting the oncology market? Scientists at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center offered one potential pathway, pointing to the role of p53 in spurring the advance of non-small cell lung cancer. And they're now working on an experimental lung cancer drug that has shown promise in a mouse study.

"We identified a novel mechanism by which p53 regulates PD-L1 and tumor immune evasion through control of miR-34a expression," said James Welsh, M.D., associate professor of Radiation Oncology.

P53, which plays a role in a number of cancers, has long been a target in cancer research. And it's proven very difficult to hit effectively. The researchers also observed that the microRNA miR-34a is often missing in lung cancer tumors.

"Our results suggest that miR-34a delivery combined with standard therapies, such as radiotherapy, may represent a novel therapeutic approach for lung cancer," said Maria Angelica Cortez, Ph.D., an instructor of Experimental Radiation Oncology.

And they have a novel drug to test that suggestion. In a mouse study, MRX34, an investigational drug that mimics miR-34's tumor-suppressing abilities, "increased the immune system's CD8 cells when combined with radiotherapy."

A MRX34 clinical trial is currently underway.

- here's the release

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