New discovery to boost radiotherapy effectiveness
Cancer Research UK scientists have identified a gene that, once blocked, could
increase the effectiveness of radiotherapy on tumours, according to research
published in Cancer Research.
The team based at the Cancer Research UK/MRC Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology
and Biology at the University of Oxford carried out studies in samples of tumour
cells and healthy cells. They screened 200 genes involved in DNA damage repair
to identify potential new targets for drugs to improve radiotherapy effectiveness.
The scientists discovered that blocking the activity of a gene called POLQ
- which is switched on in cancer cells - increased the ability of radiotherapy
to destroy tumours.
This means the development of drugs to block POLQ would potentially increase
the effectiveness of radiotherapy without increasing the side effects of the
One of the lead authors Dr Geoff Higgins, a Cancer Research UK scientist at
the Gray Institute, said:
" We've sieved through a vast pool of promising genetic information
and identified a gene that could potentially be targeted by drugs to improve
the effectiveness of radiotherapy.
There are many different types of cancer and tumours can differ widely
in the way they respond to radiotherapy - but the reasons for these differences
are largely unknown. Our research identified a gene that enables tumour cells
to survive radiotherapy. Blocking the activity of this gene resulted in a
greater number of tumour cells dying after radiotherapy and provides new avenues
Radiotherapy is a key aspect of cancer care. Many thousands of cancer patients
will have some form of radiotherapy as part of their treatment and it is estimated
to contribute to 40% of cases where cancer is eliminated.
The Cancer Research UK Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology Cancer Research
in Oxford is the world's largest and most comprehensive centre for research
in radiation oncology. The centre is researching aspects of radiobiology that
could yield new advances in radiation treatment of patients with cancer.
Professor Gillies McKenna, director of the institute, said:
" The next stage is to translate this discovery into a treatment
that will benefit patients. It is incredibly exciting to think that scientists
may be able to develop something as simple as a pill to improve radiotherapy
treatment and increase survival from a wide range of cancers."
Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said:
" Radiotherapy is a really important tool in the box of treatments
to beat cancer. Around four in ten people with cancer will have radiotherapy
as part of their treatment which is why we are investing heavily in research
into the most effective ways to deliver it."