USC research IDS potential treatment for deadly, Hiv-related blood cancer
Researchers at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center have discovered a promising new way to treat a rare and aggressive blood cancer most commonly found in people infected with HIV. The USC team shows that a class of drugs called BET bromodomain inhibitors effectively targets primary effusion lymphoma (PEL), a type of cancer for which those drugs were not expected to be effective. “It’s a reversal of the paradigm,” said Preet Chaudhary, MD, PhD, chief of the Nohl Division of Hematology and Blood Diseases at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and principal investigator of the study. “Our results suggest that this new class of drug may be an effective treatment for a wider range of cancers than previously thought.” PEL is caused by infection with Kaposi’s sarcomaassociated herpes virus, the most common cause of cancer among patients with AIDS. The prognosis for PEL is poor, with a median survival of three to six months. Thus, there is a critical need for new therapies for the disease. Chaudhary and his colleagues show that inhibitors targeting the BRD4 protein blocked growth of PEL cells in a test tube and in a mouse model. The results were surprising because BET inhibitors were thought to be only effective against cancers linked to an overexpression of the Myc gene.