ARTICLE | Targets & Mechanisms

Attacking cancer's secretive side

July 29, 2010 7:00 AM UTC

Researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science have shown that antibodies against epidermal growth factor receptor ligands from pancreatic tumors boosted the effectiveness of Eli Lilly and Co.'s Gemzar gemcitabine, one of the two drugs on the market approved as first-line therapies for the indication.1 The team thinks targeting tumor-specific epidermal growth factor receptor ligands is an approach that could extend to other cancers.

Seven small molecule and antibody antagonists of epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFRs) are approved for cancer (see "Suited to EGFR"). However, there are no disclosed therapies in clinical development targeting EGFR ligands, even though drugs that inhibit the receptor are unable to address two problems caused by the ligands. The first issue is that high levels of the ligands have been linked to greater risk of metastasis and lower patient survival.2-4 The second is that tumors can develop resistance to cancer drugs by increasing secretion of EGFR ligands.5-8...