As a former employee of theirs, I love all things UCSF. And again they’ve stepped out ahead of the curve to potentially solve a problem that plagues patients of the most deadly of all cancers – lung cancer. A common lung cancer drug, Tarceva, may initially shrink tumors, but it was inevitable that they would eventually return as patients developed resistance to the drug. Researchers at UCSF recently discovered that a human protein, AXL, may be what drives that resistance for people in treatment – and led them to the logical conclusion that blocking the protein could prevent the resistance to the drug, thereby diminishing the tumors for good.
This is great news for those seeking treatment from this most devastating of diseases. More people die from lung cancer every year than from breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer combined; about 85% of those diagnosed will die within five years of diagnosis. Part of this is due to the generally late stage that the cancer is in when it is detected – only about 30% of the cases are diagnosed in its earliest stages. This totals around 150,000 people each year, and while most cases can be traced back to cigarette smoke exposure, but this certainly isn’t the only culprit. Asbestos, chemical exposure,and genetic exposure play their own roles and contribute to the 10% of non-smokers with the disease. Young people – even those who are fit and healthy – are not immune to the disease, so this breakthrough really does have the potential to make a huge impact in the lives of those affected.