Researchers at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia have discovered how to reverse drug resistance in skin and mouth squamous cell carcinomas. According to UQ Diamantina Institute associate professor Nicholas Saunders, PhD, squamous cell carcinomas are curable when diagnosed early but difficult to eradicate once the cancer spreads.
“This cancer of the skin and mouth kills approximately 1,400 Australians each year. The drugs used to treat squamous cell carcinomas that have spread to other parts of the body only work for a small fraction of patients,” said Saunders. “In our study, we successfully added a new drug to an existing treatment to make squamous cell carcinomas responsive to treatment.”
The researchers found that a protein called E2F7 was controlling drug resistance in the affected cells.
“More than 80% of squamous cell carcinomas we examined had a unique defect in the protein. In normal cells, E2F7 stays within the nucleus of a cell and blocks drug resistance. We discovered that in most squamous carcinomas, E2F7 is pumped out of the nucleus, meaning it can no longer stop drug resistance occurring,” said Saunders.
“By administering a drug that helps to keep E2F7 in the nucleus, the cancer cells become sensitive to existing chemotherapeutics,” Saunders said, who added that finding new ways to prevent drug resistance was vital for improving patient outcomes.
The study, “Targeting the XPO1-Dependent Nuclear Export of E2F7 Reverses Anthracycline Resistance in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinomas,” was published by Science Translational Medicine.