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EGFR inhibitors show promise against rhabdomyosarcoma in the lab

Memphis, Tenn. - April 27, 2022

St. Jude researchers Xin Huang, Anand Patel, and Xiang Chen

Co-first authors of the research paper: Xin Huang, Ph.D., St. Jude Computational Biology; Anand Patel, M.D., Ph.D., St. Jude Oncology; Xiang Chen, Ph.D., Computational Biology.

Rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common type of soft tissue sarcoma in children. Cancer cells can remain after therapy. These cells multiply and cause the disease to recur.

Scientists at St. Jude studied these cells. They used novel technologies like single cell sequencing. They also created lab models that closely mirror the biology of cancer in patients.

They found that the cells driving rhabdomyosarcoma recurrence had features that mirror early development. These cells respond to EGFR inhibitors in the lab. This targeted therapy is already used to treat some cancers.

The work shows that it is important to target all of the populations of cells in a tumor. This approach of targeting different developmental states may apply to other pediatric cancers.

“We have a proof of concept that if you target those rare cells that persist with an EGFR inhibitor and combine that with chemotherapy you get a much better outcome because you’re treating the entire tumor. This reflects a different way of thinking about therapy that isn’t focused just on initial response,” said Anand Patel, MD, PhD, Oncology.

The findings appeared in Developmental Cell.

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