TUESDAY, Aug. 18, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Drugs that target a cell surface molecule called ERBB3 could offer a more effective way to treat colon cancer, a new study suggests.
Currently, drugs that target the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) are used to treat a number of cancers, but these drugs haven't proven very effective against colon cancer. ERBB3 is closely related to EGFR. Drugs aimed at ERBB3 may be much more effective than EGFR inhibitors at treating colon cancer.
In this study, researchers genetically blocked ERBB3 in mice with colon cancer and in human colon cancer cells.
"If you genetically remove ERBB3, as you would if you were pharmacologically targeting it, then the mice rarely develop colon cancer," lead author David Threadgill, adjunct professor in the department of genetics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a professor in the genetics department at North Carolina State University, said in a news release.
He and his colleagues also found a dramatic increase in cell death when ERBB3 was genetically removed from human colon cancer cell lines.
"If we can use an inhibitor to block ERBB3, then it should be a very potent anti-cancer therapy," Threadgill said.
The study appeared online Aug. 17 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about colon cancer treatment.