A group of drugs called JAK inhibitors that are already used to treat the rare blood disorder myelofibrosis may be effective in treating stomach and colorectal cancer, new research from Australia has found.
The pre-clinical research, which was carried out by a team of scientists from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, found that the JAK inhibitors reduced the growth of inflammation-associated stomach and bowel cancer.Dr Emma Stuart who was part of the team stated that the discovery was the result of the team’s long-standing interest in the link between inflammation and cancers of the digestive tract.
“Recently we have begun to unravel the complex signalling that occurs in inflamed tissues, such as when a person has a stomach ulcer or suffers from inflammatory bowel disease, and how this drives cancer development,” she said.
This study investigated molecules called JAK proteins, which are involved in the development of cancer in the stomach and bowel. When they tested the effect of JAK inhibitors in mouse models of stomach and colorectal cancer, they found that they slowed down the growth of tumours and killed many of the cancer cells.
“By understanding the molecules that are involved in promoting the survival and growth of cancer cells, we have been able to identify which of these molecules can be targeted with potential anti-cancer treatments,” Dr Stuart added.
These findings are particularly useful as JAK inhibitors have already undergone clinical trials for treating cancer-like blood disorders. The research team hopes that this will reduce the time that it will take to commence trials following on from their research.
Professor Matthias Ernst, who was also part of the team said, "The reason this discovery is particularly exciting is clinical trials have already shown that JAK proteins can be safely and successfully inhibited in patients."
These findings have been published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.