Åslaug Helland’s research on lung cancer presented by the Norwegian Cancer Society

slaug Helland (photo: Per Marius Didriksen)
slaug Helland (photo: Per Marius Didriksen)

Åslaug Helland and coworkers have been part of a study where lung cancer tumours have been reduced in size after giving the patients drugs previously used in treatment of malignant melanomas. These studies have been performed due to certain similarities between lung cancer and melanoma cells. The research is part of an international clinical study where in total 40 lung cancer patients have been given the drugs dabrafenib and trametinib.

Åslaug Helland summarizes:

Approximately 2 % of lung cancer patients have a mutation in the BRAF-gene in their tumour cells. This is a gene commonly mutated in melanomas, and the drugs dabrafenib and trametinib have been shown to have effect. The drugs target the BRAF and the MEK-proteins. The drug combination is now tried in treatment of lung cancer patients with this mutation, with promising results. BRAF mutated cells have turned on signals for cell cycle, inducing tumour growth. BRAF-inhibitors were primarily tested alone, but later trials have shown a more prolonged effect when combining with a MEK-inhibitor.

Of course, we have to wait for the trial to be finalised before we have the final verdict about the effectiveness of the drugs, but the preliminary reports have been optimistic. The patients included are followed tightly in order to learn more about tolerability in addition to the clinical effect.

The patients we have included seem to have good effect of the treatment, and the side effects are tolerable. They are followed regularly with CT-scans to measure the tumour size, in addition to quality of life reports and blood sampling. Our patients are currently doing very well, reporting improvements quality of life.

Studies like this one are important for our knowledge on personalised cancer care. Although this affects only a subgroup of our patients, similar studies are being performed for several other subgroups of our patients. The Cancer Society’s National Milieu of Expertise on Lung Cancer established in 2013, provides some funding for our ongoing clinical studies. We are performing clinical studies including lung cancer patients from all over Norway, - offering patients treatment in clinical trials. Drugs are made available to Norwegian patients, and the clinicians learn more about new drugs.

Links:

Article from the Norwegian Cancer Society home page (in Norwegian):
Ga lungekreftpasienter føflekkreftmedisin – svulstene krympet

Home page of Åslaug Helland's group - Translational studies on solid tumours

Åslaug Helland's mini CV and publications

Department of Cancer Genetics