Chinese scientists depict precision strategies for head, neck cancer: study

2022-09-08 Xinhua Editor:Li Yan

Cancer is a cunning foe since its kaleidoscopic genetic alterations often render precision therapy extremely elusive. A group of Chinese scientists tried to cover all options with one map of potential drugs for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).

HNSCC often goes undiagnosed until its more advanced stages and currently most of the new drug candidates targeting mutated proteins and enzymes have shown only limited success in early studies.

The study published on Thursday in the journal Science Translational Medicine reported a large repository of patient-derived cells that help quickly translate research into therapies and biomarkers for this cancer.

The research group led by Zhang Zhiyuan and Sun Shuyang from Shanghai Jiao Tong University assembled the repository of 56 cell lines derived from samples from patients with HNSCC-- the largest-ever model of its kind in the world that mapped out HNSCC tumors with distinctive morphological and genetic traits, according to the researchers.

Using this large resource, the team screened more than 2,200 compounds, including FDA-approved drugs and compounds in both clinical and preclinical stages, for promising drug candidates that could neutralize the cancer cells.

Based on the model, the researchers identified 129 promising drugs and experimental compounds that could potentially be fit to repurpose for HNSCC, and they verified that two conventional drugs, fedratinib and mitoxantrone, might be used respectively for two types of HNSCC, according to the study.

The experiments also revealed that a gene called ITGB1 can work as a biomarker to predict patient responses to the chemotherapy drug docetaxel.

"This is an effective tool for identifying biomarkers and new targeted therapies to help improve treatment of HNSCC," said Sun Shuyang, the paper's co-corresponding author. 

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