Dental Tribune USA

Leukaemia drug helpful in treating head and neck cancer

By Daniel Zimmermann, DTI
May 08, 2009

LEIPZIG, Germany: A new anti-leukaemia compound, currently being studied at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York City in the US, has revealed promising results for treating head and neck cancer. According to a press note released by the university last week, the new class of chemotherapy agents, known as histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDAC), succeeded in killing tumour cells that had been removed from head and neck cancer patients and grown in the laboratory.

Head and neck cancer refers to tumours originating from the upper aerodigestive tract, including the lips, oral and nasal cavity, as well as paranasal sinuses, pharynx, and larynx. It is the sixth most frequent cancer worldwide, comprising almost 50 per cent of all malignancies in some developing nations, such as India. In the US alone, approximately 30,000 new cases and 8,000 deaths are reported each year.

Until now, the common form of treatment has been radiation therapy, and in some cases also surgery or targeted therapy, which uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. HDAC inhibitors, such as LBH589 tested at Einstein, appear to combat cancer by restoring the expression of key regulatory genes that control cell growth and survival to normal levels.

In addition, the researchers identified a set of genes whose expression levels change in response to the HDAC inhibitors, which could help doctors identify the patients most likely to respond to the drug. Plans call for testing LBH589 on head and neck tumour cells from more patients, so that the set of genes that respond to the drug can be more firmly established.

“We are performing studies in mice to confirm these laboratory results, which hopefully will progress to human clinical trials of LBH589 for the treatment of head and neck cancer,” said Prof. Michael Prystowsky, Professor and Chair of Pathology at Einstein.


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