MIT: Staggering cancer drugs can make them more effective

Many aggressive cancers are treated with chemo cocktails, but are doctors (and patients) getting the most of the therapies with the way they're currently delivered? MIT scientists say no, and they've come up with a method of staggering doses that has led to positive results in the lab.

MIT biology professor Michael Yaffe and his team took triple-negative breast cancer cells and treated them with erlotinib and doxorubicin, which are common therapies for killing cancer. However, instead of bundling them, the researchers staggered the dosing, administering the erlotinib between four and 48 hours prior to the doxorubicin. Their method killed up to 50% of the triple-negative cells, compared to 20% when the two drugs were served together, Medical News Today reports.

The researchers discovered that leading with the erlotinib sensitizes the cancer cells, making them more vulnerable to the doxorubicin. "Instead of looking like this classic triple-negative type of tumor, which is very aggressive and fast-growing and metastatic, they lose their tumorigenic quality and become a different type of tumor that is actually quite unaggressive and very easy to kill," MIT's Michael Lee told ​Medical News Today.

The method was effective in lab-grown tumors and in mice, and Yaffe said staggered dosing could also help fight aggressive cancers in the lungs and elsewhere. With more research, the scientists can find the right drug combinations and administration intervals to boost efficacy in cancer treatments, Lee added.

- read the Medical News Today story
- check out the researchers' article in Cell