Cancer Research UK scientists have discovered how cell are able to adapt to overcome cancer drugs which are designed to interfere with their genetic controls.

Molecular ‘tags’ are normally attached to DNA which send signals to the cell and tell the cell how to package its DNA and switch genes on or off.

HDAC inhibitors cause a build-up of certain types of tags which lead to potentially damaging changes in gene activity that can kill cancer cells.

Although HDAC inhibitors can successfully treat certain types of cancer such as lymphoma, other types of cancer are able to survive this disruption.

Scientists suggest that cancer cells are able to do this by activating a built in ‘survival’ response to HDAC inhibitors which rebalances the tags. Rebalancing the tags allows cells to maintain normal gene activity and keep the cells alive.

These findings could help identify which patients are suitable for treatment with these drugs. It could also help develop future therapies that override the survival mechanism in tumor types that don’t respond.

The study showed that come cancer cells can survive the gene damage caused by HDAC inhibitor drugs. This finding allowed scientists to unveil a new layer of the cancer cell’s defense that is needed to target in order to destroy tumors.

Discovering how genes are switched on and off in cancer is vital in order to truly understand and beat the disease. This study can help scientists tailor how HDAC inhibitors are used so that more patients can benefit from them.

The next step is to determine which types of cancer are vulnerable to these drugs so that they can be used in a smarter and more efficient way to treat patients.

Gerry Oginski
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