JERUSALEM, Israel -- A team of Israeli researchers at Hadassah University Hospital at Ein Kerem have made significant breakthroughs in laboratory tests on lung cancer treatment.
The four-member research team has been exploring two components -- a receptor called CXCR4 -- and the protein it adheres to called CXCL12 -- often present in cancer patients, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported.
Researchers found these components increased in lung cancer tissue as the disease advanced. Then they discovered that adding a substance called BKT140, which blocked the receptor and protein from adhering to one another, killed the cancerous cells and reduced the size of the tumors.
When they injected BKT140 -- developed by Biokine Therapeutics in Rehovot to help bone marrow donors to produce more cells before a bone marrow transplant -- into tumors, it slowed down the growth and reduced its size by about half.
"We injected the blocker into the mice and it found its way to the site where the tumor was developing in the lung, where it helped reduce the volume of the tumor," said Prof. Oz Shapira, head of Hadassah Ein Kerem's Cardiothoracic Surgery Department.
When combined with radiation and chemotherapy, they reduced the tumor's growth rate by 90 percent.
Other cancer treatments being explored include blocking enzymes that promote tumor growth; using antibodies to damage the blood vessels sustaining the tumor; using drugs that damage the tumor's casing, preventing its growth; and boosting the patient's immune system to fight the tumor.
The research team presented its findings at the American Association for Thoracic Surgery conference in San Francisco earlier this month. They're expecting to receive approval for clinical tests on lung cancer patients.
"The material was already developed as a remedy and has already proven to have a high safety profile with few side effects," said Dr. Ori Wald.
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer worldwide and has a survival rate of only 20 percent after five years. In Israel, it represents 21.5 percent of cancer deaths in men and 9.9 percent in women.
Ha'aretz contributed to this report.