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Telaglenastat Enhances Combination Radiation Therapy by 40%

“HEAD and neck cancer, like any cancer, is truly life-altering,” said Dr Christina Wicker, who is part of a group of researchers from the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA that trialled a new combination therapy using existing treatments for head and neck cancer to enhance radiation therapy. Worldwide, head and neck cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer and, despite existing treatments, recurrence is common. Affecting the throat, tongue, nose, and ability to swallow, talk, or eat, this disabling disease interferes with some of life’s most social and pleasurable aspects.

Dr Wicker led the team to explore combination radiation therapy with telaglenastat, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drug which alters an enzyme typically affected in cancer cells and that causes the cells to multiply and resist treatment.

Telaglenastat alone was shown to reduce the growth of head and neck cancer cells by up to 90% and increased the effectiveness of radiation therapy by 40%. Radiation is currently the most common form of therapy for patients with cancer, but cancer has been shown to recur in approximately one-half of patients. The study was carried out in animal models; since telaglenastat is FDA-approved and has been administered in clinical trials for various cancers, the team considered it a promising course of action and a quick route to head and neck cancer clinical trials. “Until now, no one has examined if this drug has the potential to improve radiation treatment in head and neck cancer. Most importantly, this drug compound has been well tolerated by patients and causes minimal side effects,” stated Dr Wicker.

The study carried out by this team of researchers is an example of the action taken by scientists and clinicians to act quickly when traditional drugs become less effective and cancer management becomes all the more challenging because the cancer grows and spreads to other organs in the body. With the aim to extend the life expectancy of patients with cancer, Dr Wicker hopes “this drug will be used to make radiation treatments for head and neck cancer even more effective.”