December 10, 2015

New lead for ovarian cancer treatment

Combining inhibitors of the BMP signaling pathway with standard chemotherapy drugs may overcome drug resistance in ovarian cancer.

by Marilyn Holt

Despite increasingly advanced treatments, nearly half the women who contract ovarian cancer will die within five years. Chemotherapy drug resistance significantly contributes to the high mortality rate. Understanding the processes that trigger tumor growth allows scientists to find better ways to treat this disease.

Members of the laboratory of Hal Moses, M.D., previously identified the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling pathway as an important regulator of breast cancer. In a collaboration with Dineo Khabele, M.D., and Charles Hong, M.D., Ph.D., Philip Owens, Ph.D., and colleagues showed this pathway is switched on in ovarian cancer cells. They also revealed a BMP pathway inhibitor, DMH1, that reduced tumor size and enhanced the effects of cisplatin, a common treatment for ovarian cancer.

These findings, published in Cancer Letters, suggest combining DMH1 – or other BMP pathway inhibitors – with standard chemotherapy drugs may overcome resistance. Further research with the Vanderbilt Ovarian Cancer Alliance could lead to more effective ovarian cancer treatments.

This work was supported by grants from the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, National Institutes of Health (CA085492, CA102162), the Robert J. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation and the T.J. Martell Foundation.

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