Yale Cancer Center researchers have discovered a genetic defect that keeps brain tumor cells from repairing damaged DNA. Moreover, the defect is highly sensitive to an existing FDA-approved drug used to treat ovarian cancer. The researchers believe the discovery will change how we treat brain tumors and other cancers with the same genetic defect.
Certain malignant brain tumors and leukemias have mutations in genes known as IDH1 and IDH2. The researchers tested several existing cancer drugs on the mutated cell lines. They found that tumor cells with the mutant genes were particularly sensitive to a drug, olaparib, recently approved for the treatment of hereditary ovarian cancer. The drug caused a 50-fold increase in brain tumor cell death.
Unlike current practices in oncology, the researchers believe their results show that an entirely new group of tumors can be targeted effectively with DNA repair inhibitors, and that possibly these patients currently are not being treated with the most optimal approaches.