Advancements in treatment have also been made by combining new drugs with repurposed old drugs that can enhance therapeutic effects or specificity. Chloroquine, a drug that has historically been used to treat malaria, has recently been combined with a new drug, Tarceva, which kills lung cancer cells. Tarceva only works for some patients, and the cancer almost always becomes resistant after prolonged exposure to the drug. However, the addition of chloroquine to the treatment regimen appears to increase the number of patients for whom Tarceva works, and helps it work for longer (1).

A laboratory study and a proof of concept clinical trial (2) funded by Cures Within Reach helped to create an ongoing clinical trial at Massachusetts General Hospital funded by the company that makes Tarceva (3). Results are expected to be published in 2015.

1. Zou Y., Ling Y.H., Sironi J., Schwartz E.L., Perez-Soler R., and Piperdi B (2013). The autophagy inhibitor chloroquine overcomes the innate resistance of wild-type EGFR non-small-cell lung cancer cells to erlotinib. Journal of Thoracic Oncology 8(6): 693-702. [Link here]
2. Goldberg SB1, Supko JG, Neal JW, Muzikansky A, Digumarthy S, Fidias P, Temel JS, Heist RS, Shaw AT, McCarthy PO, Lynch TJ, Sharma S, Settleman JE, Sequist LV. A phase I study of erlotinib and hydroxychloroquine in advanced non-small-cell lung cancer. J Thorac Oncol. 2012 Oct;7(10):1602-8. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0b013e318262de4a.
3. National Insitute of Health; Massachusetts General Hospital. Erlotinib with or without hydroxychloroquine in chemo-naive advanced NSCLC and (EGFR) mutations. Boston, MA: National Library of Medicine (US): 2009-2015. [Link here]