April 23, 2024

Unlocking New Potential: Combining Epigenetic Cancer Medications Shows Promise for Colorectal Cancers and Solid Tumors

In a groundbreaking study published in Science Advances, researchers from the Van Andel Institute have discovered a potential breakthrough in the treatment of colorectal cancers and other solid tumors. By combining two medications that trigger malignant cells to mimic a viral infection, the study found a synergistic effect that could revolutionize cancer therapy.

The research focused on the interaction between a DNMT inhibitor and an EZH2 inhibitor, showing that low doses of the former sensitize cancer cells to the latter, resulting in a more effective anti-cancer response when used together. These findings have paved the way for an upcoming Phase I clinical trial to assess the efficacy of this combination treatment in patients with colorectal cancer and other solid tumors.

While DNMT inhibitors are currently approved for blood cancer treatment and EZH2 inhibitors for blood cancer and a rare sarcoma type, their effectiveness in treating solid tumors like colorectal cancer has been limited. Van Andel Institute Professor Scott Rothbart, Ph.D., emphasized the potential of combining these medications to enhance their anti-cancer properties, as evidenced by the study results.

Both DNMT and EZH2 inhibitors target epigenetic processes that control gene expression, offering a valuable strategy for combating cancer cells that exploit epigenetic errors to survive and proliferate. Previous research has shown that DNMT inhibitors induce cancer cells to mimic a viral infection, making them more vulnerable to the body’s immune system.

The latest study demonstrated that the combination of DNMT and EZH2 inhibitors enhances this viral mimicry process, potentially increasing their effectiveness in treating solid tumors. The forthcoming clinical trial will be the first to test the combined application of these medications in this context.

Colorectal cancer ranks as the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, with over 1.9 million new cases diagnosed in 2020 and an anticipated rise to 3.2 million cases by 2040. While screening and early detection have reduced colorectal cancer rates in older individuals in the U.S., cases among younger people are on the rise.

Rothbart highlighted the urgent need for more effective treatment strategies in addressing this concerning trend. By combining medications, researchers aim to target multiple facets of cancer simultaneously. Beyond enhancing the understanding of DNMT and EZH2 inhibitors’ collaborative mechanisms, the study suggests that epigenetic drugs may also sensitize tumors to immunotherapy, presenting a promising avenue for improving cancer treatment outcomes.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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