The Daily Bruin, UCLA’s main campus newspaper for students and members of the university reported exciting news about a recent study where researchers at UCLA found a drug that can limit the growth of certain lung cancer cells.
According to the research paper, the drug, pacritinib, can reduce glucose consumption in squamous cell lung cancer cells by targeting the FLT3 protein, which is found in many cancer cells and plays a role in promoting their growth and survival via glucose consumption. Cancer cells require glucose to survive and grow, said Peter Clark, assistant professor in the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine and senior author of the study, which was published in January. Clark added that researchers have previously attempted to target the glucose consumption of cancer cells, but this had inhibited healthy, vital tissues from growing.
Squamous cell lung cancer is a form of non-small cell lung cancer, which is more common and slower spreading than its counterpart, small cell lung cancer. It has cells that consume glucose at a high rate, according to Clark.
The researchers found that pacritinib inhibits FLT3, reducing the glucose consumption. These high levels of glucose consumption are also found in many other cancers, Clark said, although his study focused only on squamous cell lung cancer.
Pacritinib has been previously used for the treatment of other diseases like myelofibrosis and certain blood disorders, but its potential for treating squamous cell lung cancer by targeting the FLT3 protein was previously unknown.
“Our lab was trying to understand how we can target glucose pathways … because if we are able to break these pathways, we can also block tumor growth,” Chiara Ghezzi, a former project scientist in Clark’s lab and the first author listed on the paper
Clark said the researchers screened about 3,000 to 4,000 drugs and identified 70 to 80 that specifically blocked glucose consumption in cancer cells. Of these, they determined pacritinib to be the most effective at blocking this consumption.