During the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, researchers from the University of Colorado Cancer Center presented results showing that a known driver present in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is also present in small cell lung cancer (SCLC), implying that treatments for NSCLC may be applicable for SCLC as well.
Currently, treatments for non-small cell lung cancer are approved or are in clinical trials. However, there are not many available treatments for Small Cell Lung Cancer a more aggressive and less common form of lung cancer.
“There is an unmet need in small cell lung cancer. There have been no significant new therapies developed in 20 years,” said Fred R. Hirsch, MD, PhD, associate director for international programs at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and CEO of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer in a recent news release.
One of the treatment strategies for NSCLC is based on fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) inhibition that signals cancer development in approximately 21% of NSCLC cancers. During the AACR 2015, findings from Hirsch and co-workers showed amplification of FGFR mRNA and/or protein expression in 17 of a total of 75 NSCLC patient samples.
“The presence of FGFR1 as a driver mutation in small cell lung cancer implies that we could repurpose drugs that target this amplification in non-small cell lung cancer for the small cell form of the disease,” Hirsch said.
SCLC accounts for about 10 to 15% of all lung cancers, and it has been shown to have 5-year survival rates — less than half of that found in NSCLC. Compared to NSCLC, SCLC patients develop symptoms later on, usually resulting in later diagnoses after it has spread to secondary sites, and culminating in patients’ death weeks or months following diagnosis.
In the study, researchers also identified a subset of SCLC patients with an over activation of the FGFR1 pathway, as shown by amplification of the FGFR1 gene, high protein expression and increased FGFR1 mRNA levels.
“This clearly demonstrates that FGFR1 is important in a subgroup of small cell lung cancers. I would say this will lead to a clinical trial of drugs targeting FGFR in small cell lung cancer,” Hirsch said in the news release. “The progress of existing drugs targeting FGFR1 means that we could be much closer to offering treatment options to people with small cell lung cancer than if we had been forced to start with a new compound.”