St. Joseph's Researcher "Tricks" Deadly Cells

Cancer researcher at St. Joseph's "tricks" deadly cells.Cancer researcher Dr. Landon Inge of Norton Thoracic Institute at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital has learned a few tricks to make some cancer cells disappear, using a genetic mutation as his sidekick. 

Through his research, Inge has learned that certain lung cancers can make a body’s immune system traitorous. Inge discovered that patients lacking a specific tumor-suppressor gene, known as LKB1, are far more susceptible to having their immune system conned into helping cancer cells proliferate. In other words, when there is a mutation in the LKB1 gene, the immune system is more likely to be hijacked.

“We have very tangible evidence that loss of LKB1 in non-small cell lung cancer cells results in these cells subverting the immune system and reprogramming immune cells to aid the tumor’s growth,” said Inge. Currently, his team is collaborating with researchers at Arizona State University to “clearly describe how LKB1-deficient cells do this, as well as exploring drugs that can inhibit this mechanism.”

Several years ago, Inge identified a medication that can outwit the dastardly cancer cells by pretending to be an edible sugar, when, in fact, it is only an indigestible decoy designed to starve the cancer cells to death. The drug may also prevent lung cancer from spreading to other organs.

“We are beginning efforts to identify new drugs and combinations of drugs that can enhance the killing of tumor cells,” he added.

Developing cancer-killing medications is just one of many goals for Inge, whose lab also grows cancer cell lines and supplies them to other research institutions. Plus, Inge is on the hunt to identify better and more treatments for esophageal cancers, which are predicted to skyrocket in the next decade.