A one-two combo punch using two currently available drugs could be an effective treatment for the majority of lung cancers, a study by scientists with UT Southwestern’s Simmons Cancer Center shows.

Researchers found that a combination of drugs – one targeting epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and one targeting tumor necrosis factor (TNF) – effectively blocks the cancer from using TNF as an escape route. Using a mouse model, the researchers showed that when TNF is also blocked, the cancer becomes sensitive to EGFR treatment.

“There has been a tremendous effort over the past several years to block EGFR as a treatment for lung cancer, but this therapy only works in a small subset of patients. The cancer fights back with a bypass pathway,” said senior author Dr. Amyn Habib with the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern and a staff physician at the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“Blocking both of these proteins could be a treatment that is beneficial for the majority of lung cancer patients,” said Dr. Habib, Associate Professor of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics with UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute.

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. for both men and women, according to the National Cancer Institute and in 2017, lung cancer caused 26 percent of all cancer deaths. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the type of lung cancer for which the EGFR/TNF inhibitor combination would be effective, comprises approximately 85 percent of all lung cancers.

Read more at UT Southwestern Medical Center