London: Certain class of cancer drugs could be used in the future to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), say researchers, adding that the drugs could be developed to stop the progression of the disease and promote healing within the lungs.
COPD makes breathing progressively more difficult for millions of people around the world, and the study, published in the journal eLIFE has shown the potential for clinically available cancer treatments to treat it.
"COPD is usually treated with steroids and airway muscle relaxants which ease symptoms, but there is currently no effective treatment clinically available to counteract the damage it does to the lungs," said study researcher Lynne Prince from the University of Sheffield in UK.
"Our research now shows that inhibitors of these cell signalling processes, or ErbB kinases, could have therapeutic potential in neutrophilic inflammatory disease," Prince added.
Accroding to the researchers, the hope of these drugs is that they can clear the damaging cells from the lungs of people living with COPD, preventing any further damage and therefore the progression of the disease for the first time.
They have been investigating the effect of drugs used to treat a variety of cancers on this inflammatory response; the main driver of lung damage in people living with COPD.
People living with COPD experience a wide range of symptoms that have an increasing impact on their quality of life, including breathlessness, coughing and frequent chest infections.
The damage to the lungs is driven by inflammation caused by immune cells called neutrophils.
For the results, the research team screened a library of cancer drugs and identified a number of compounds which accelerate the death of the neutrophil cells and promote healing in the lungs.
The research discovered that specific cancer drugs inhibit a cell signalling process controlling the death-rate of the harmful neutrophils.
The team also discovered that editing the genes that encode the cell signalling in the first place, further decreased inflammation.
"As neutrophilic inflammation is also central to the progression of other chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, the research has the potential to impact not only people living with COPD," said study researcher Stephen Renshaw from the University of Sheffield in UK.
"Our next step is to find a way to test these drugs in people with COPD to understand how the ErbB kinase signalling process has an effect on lung inflammation and to address any potential side effects," Renshaw added.