Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine have identified a combination therapy which may be effective against certain types of ovarian cancer. The research was published in the journal, Anticancer Research.
According to the study authors, the triple drug combination therapy could be an effective treatment option for patients whose cancer has developed resistance to chemotherapy and other conventional treatments. The therapy combines a calpain inhibitor, known as calpeptin, with two different histone deacetylase inhibitors, sodium butyrate and suberanilohydroxamic acid (SAHA).
The researchers tested this combination in two ovarian cancer cell lines, CAOV-3 and SKOV-3. They found that this combination therapy was able to inhibit ovarian cancer cell growth, and induce apoptosis in the tumor cells.
While ovarian cancer accounts for just three percent of all cancers affecting women, it is responsible for the majority of cancer deaths when compared to other female reproductive system cancers. Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed after it has metastasized within the pelvis and abdomen, making it harder to treat and often fatal.
Surgery and chemotherapy are the frontline treatments for ovarian cancer. Platinum-based drugs are also commonly used to treat the disease, as few target specific drugs are approved for ovarian cancer.
Interestingly, calpeptin was also found to have epigenetic effects on the cells used in this study. The calpain inhibitor was able to remove methyl tags from select genes.
“Calpeptin possibly has a dual role,” said senior study author Dr. Sibaji Sarkar, of the Cancer Center, Genome Science Institute, Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine. “It can kill cancer cells and in addition, it may act as an epigenetic drug as well.
“We believe that epigenetic drugs alone are not the best choice for cancer therapy. We need other target specific and other types of inhibitors, but the addition of epigenetic drugs can increase the efficacy of the therapy by blocking the expression of growth promoting genes even after remission after standard therapy.”
Previous research conducted by Sakar and colleagues has found that epigenetics play a key role in the generation of cancer progenitor cells, tumor progression and migration, as well as cancer drug resistance. Other studies have supported this idea by showing that epigenetic drugs make drug resistant cancer cells more susceptible to platinum therapies.