Previously published in Mayo Clinic Magazine
Today, about 60,000 Americans have had their larynx removed due to disease or trauma. These people are missing out on many of life’s little pleasures because the procedure’s resultant hole left them without a voice and created an opening directly into their lungs. A simple shower is dangerous as even the slightest amount of water in the lungs can be deadly. Bad weather can be lethal. Things that used to be a mere annoyance — such as a housefly — are now life-threatening.
It’s not overstating it to say that danger lurks everywhere after a laryngectomy. And just at the time you need extra support, your ability to communicate is greatly impaired. A simple interaction with a store clerk is frustrating and can deliver looks of horror and pity.
As an ear, nose and throat specialist at Mayo Clinic, David Lott, M.D., has seen laryngectomies impair too many lives.
“I’m tired of seeing patients over and over and knowing there’s nothing to do,” he says. Some patients become so hopeless in the face of a laryngectomy that they forgo the procedure, opting for certain death over such deeply impaired living.
Dr. Lott wants to restore hope for these people. And with the latest breakthroughs in transplant
and regenerative medicine, he knows how.
Researchers on Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus have shut down one of the most common and lethal forms of lung cancer by combining the rheumatoid arthritis drug auranofin with an experimental targeted agent.
The combination therapy worked in a laboratory study to stop lung adenocarcinoma associated with mutation of the KRAS gene. The study will be published in the March 14 issue of Cancer Cell.
“If our approach works in KRAS-mediated lung adenocarcinoma, it may work in other KRAS-mediated cancers, such as pancreaticand colon cancers, as well as other cancer types,” says the study’s senior author, Alan P. Fields, Ph.D., a cancer biologist and the Monica Flynn Jacoby Professor of Cancer Research in the Department of Cancer Biology at Mayo Clinic in Florida.
Based on this and other preclinical research from Dr. Fields’ team, Mayo Clinic is conducting early-phase clinical trials to test the effectiveness of auranofin alone and in targeted combinations in patients with KRAS-mediated lung adenocarcinoma, ovarian cancer, and another common lung cancer called lung squamous cell carcinoma.