Head and Neck Cancer Protein Identified

Cancer aurora-A protein level researched the Fox Chase Cancer Center

(RxWiki News) Different kinds of cancer have different characteristics on a cellular level, and these unique proteins can be used to monitor the cancer's progress or serve as a target for the pharmaceutical version of a smart bomb.

The protein Aurora-A is known to be involved in several cancers and clinical trials are currently underway that target Aurora-A as a way to specifically attack cancer cells without any collateral damage.

A recent study began initially as an investigation into whether Aurora-A was a suitable drug target in head and neck cancer, but the results were more ominous.

"Ask your oncologist about molecular analysis of your cancer."

Researchers from the Fox Chase Cancer Center presenting at the American Association for Cancer Research's annual meeting announced the results of their investigation into the Aurora-A protein.

They found that not only is the protein found in cancers of the head and neck, but higher levels of the protein were correlated with a much worse prognosis than cancer patients with normal levels.

Patients with high levels of the protein survived less than 36 months on average, while patients with levels closer to normal had a longer timeframe, closer to 92 months.

"This finding suggests Aurora A does play a role in the development of head and neck cancers," said Christian J. Fidler, MD, the study author. "Consequently, Aurora-A represents another potential target for additional therapies."

Given the poor prognosis of high Aurora-A cancer patients, researchers now hope to begin a clinical trial combining Aurora-A inhibitors with other cancer drugs such as Erbitux (cetuximab) after identifying patients who have high levels of the protein marker.

In the study design, tumor samples from 89 different patients under treatment for cancers of the head and neck were analyzed for levels of the protein, and those results were examined in context of the patient's progression.

Research presented at academic conferences is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

No financial conflicts of interest were disclosed with this research.

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Review Date: 
April 20, 2012
Last Updated:
April 22, 2012