Researchers have tested a new combination therapy that showed reduced growth of head and neck cancer in the animal-based study. According to the researchers, head and neck cancer is the sixth most common cancer worldwide, and while effective treatments exist, sadly, cancer often returns.
“Head and neck cancer, like any cancer, is truly life-altering. Head and neck cancer could impact your throat, tongue or nose and patients often can’t swallow, talk or eat; it truly takes away some of the most social, enjoyable parts of life," said researcher Christina Wicker from the University of Cincinnati.
“Until now, no one has examined if this drug has the potential to improve radiation treatment in head and neck cancer. Most importantly, this drug compound has been well tolerated by patients and causes minimal side effects," Wicker added. For the study, published in the journal Cancer Letters, the researchers tested a new combination therapy in animal models to see if they could find a way to make an already effective treatment even better.
The researchers combined radiation therapy with a drug (telaglenastat) that stops a key enzyme in a cell pathway that becomes altered in cancer cells, causing those cells to grow rapidly and resist treatment. The researcher said that this drug has already been studied in multiple clinical trials to see if it could improve the treatment of various cancers.
Using animal models, researchers found that the drug alone reduced the growth of head and neck cancer cells up to 90 per cent, and it also increased the efficacy of radiation in animals with head and neck tumours by 40 per cent. “With these results, and especially with previous clinical trials showing that the drug is well tolerated by patients, there is the potential to move more rapidly into head and neck cancer clinical trials," Wicker said. “In the future, we hope this drug will be used to make radiation treatments for head and neck cancer even more effective," Wicker added.
Currently, the most common treatment for that cancer is radiation therapy, but cancer eventually returns in up to half of the patients, Wicker says, and often it doesn’t respond as positively to treatment the second time around.