Combination Anti-cancer Therapy: Opportunities and Challenges

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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Hallmarks and Signaling of Cancer Cells. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Combination Anti-cancer Therapy: Opportunities and Challenges

Signals that drive cell growth, differentiation, apoptosis, and migration come from complex networks involving signal crosstalk across several pathways. Hence, targeting a single component to fight cancer is most likely going to be incomplete.
TGFb signaling is an example where interaction between TGFb and TGFb receptors at the cell surface can diverge into three parallel pathways, including TGFb/TGFbR pathway, but also Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK pathway and PI3K/Akt pathway.
Combination strategies can offer promising treatment potentials. Targeting different pathways has been on the rise in oncology treatment. Some physicians even custom-tailor small cocktails of oncology drugs, with each drug at lower than normal concentration levels so as to minimize the combined drug toxicity.
According to, chemotherapeutic drugs work most efficiently when given in combinations. The rationale of such combinatory chemotherapy is to target different mechanisms with the goal of reducing drug resistance by cancer cells. Focused screening studies are also being carried out to identify candidate, FDA-approved drugs, which can either synergize with known oncology drugs or act in parallel ways with existing cancer drugs. Combining two or more drugs, each at a reduced concentration, may also help solve the issues of toxicity associated with high-dose regimens.