At the beginning of March, Amsterdam hosted the 10th International Congress on Targeted Anticancer Therapies, organised by the NDDO Education Foundation. The congress discussed all aspects of targeted therapy, from the identification of targets and the design of drugs, to clinical trials and the observed benefits for patients.
Dr Elizabeth Eisenhauer of Queen’s University, Canada presented the NDDO Honorary Award lecture, summarising the state of targeted therapy today. Targeted therapy has been in development for the past 15 years, and since 1999 there have been almost 15,000 Phase I, II and III clinical trials using targeted agents. Despite this large amount of research, there are still several problems associated with targeted treatments. These include choosing the right target, selecting the right patients to receive the treatment, side effects from the drugs and also drug resistance.
This year’s meeting included a session on epigenetic targets, a class of genes that are frequently found to be mutated in cancers. In renal cell carcinoma, several epigenetic regulators such as PBRM1, SETD2 and BAP1 have been found to be mutated. The identification of these genes has been discussed in previous blogs (here, here and here respectively). Dr Susan Bates from the National Cancer Institute at the NIH discussed the variety of epigenetic regulators that could be targeted in cancer therapy. Although mutations in epigenetic genes have been identified, it is unclear whether these mutations are the initiating event in tumourigenesis, or whether they are involved in maintaining the phenotype.
Sunitinib, a receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor, is a targeted therapy approved by the FDA for the treatment of RCC. The drug works by inhibiting the formation of new blood vessels (known as angiogenesis), which effectively starves and destroys the tumour. Although Sunitinib has shown promising effects, drug resistance is a common problem. Prof. dr Henk Verheul, from the VU Medical Center in Amsterdam, discussed this resistance and suggested that it may be caused by sequestration of Sunitinib in lysosomes.
The TAT congress was a great overview of targeted therapy today. Although progress is being made, there are still many hurdles to be overcome in the development of targeted therapies. Finally, keep an eye on the Conference and Events page for details of upcoming meetings which are of interest to those involved in BHD syndrome. Over the next few weeks we will also be bringing you conference reports from the Fourth BHD Symposium, which was held recently in Cincinnati, USA.