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Breakthrough: new drug kills cancer cells without side effects

Breakthrough: new drug kills cancer cells without side effects


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New active ingredient forces cancer cells to commit suicide

A new and revolutionary drug specifically kills cancer cells without affecting healthy cells. In initial tests on people with malignant lymph node tumors, the patients showed no side effects after the treatment. An English research team reports this in a recent study.

Imperial College London researchers made a breakthrough in cancer research. The London team succeeded in what scientists had been trying unsuccessfully for over thirty years. They successfully developed and tested a drug for aggressive blood cancer that kills cancer cells but spares healthy cells. The study results were recently published in the specialist journal "The British Journal of Haematology".

Encouraging results

"The results of this pilot study must be interpreted with caution at such an early stage, but they are very encouraging," summarizes the lead author Dr. Holger Auner together. So far, the drug has only been tested on three patients who suffered from multiple myeloma, also known as plasmacytoma or Kahler disease. This aggressive form of blood cancer often breaks out in several places at the same time. The treatment is extremely difficult with previous methods, explain the Imperial doctors.

Small but promising

In the small clinical study conducted by the English research team, the new drug was tested on three patients. The researchers were able to provide the first clinical evidence that the drug specifically kills myeloma cells in the bone marrow while leaving the patient's healthy tissue untouched. "Our results show that this drug could work for some patients with this aggressive form of cancer," says research director Professor Guido Franzoso in a press release on the study results.

Kill cancer cells with no side effects

"This is the first clinical evidence that our drug specifically targets cancer cells in patients while showing no signs of toxicity," the professor continued. Myeloma typically occurs in older adults. There are approximately 5,500 cases of this type in the UK each year. The cancer cannot be cured in most patients.

Previous therapies are often unsuccessful

"With previous methods, we can in most cases keep the disease under control for several years, but in the end we almost always have no treatment options," says Dr. Holger Auner. The pharmaceutical industry has repeatedly tried to develop a blood cancer medication over the past 30 years, but has had little success despite huge investments. Often, the medication failed due to serious undesirable side effects.

Forcing the cancer cell to commit suicide

Professor Franzoso's team tried a new approach. The scientists took advantage of a natural process known as apoptosis. This is a self-destruct mechanism within certain cells. However, as long as a protein called GADD45b and an enzyme called MKK7 are linked, the suicide signal is suppressed. This is where the new active ingredient comes in and blocks the connection between the protein and the enzyme in the cancer cells. The result: the cancer cell destroys itself.

Healthy cells are not affected

"We have developed a drug that can block this signaling mechanism in cancer, but not in normal cells," summarizes Professor Franzoso. This has also been shown in laboratory tests in mice. In contrast to existing drugs, there was no toxicity and no detectable side effects.

Struck in two out of three patients

In human clinical trials, the drug has shown effects in two of the three patients. After the 28-day treatment, the cell suicide mechanisms in the cancer cells were activated in two patients and the progression of the disease could be stopped. However, the drug had no effect on the third patient. The researchers suspect a genetically determined background for the ineffectiveness.

When will the drug be usable?

"We hope to be able to conduct larger studies in the future to determine whether the drug can be used in the clinic for the benefit of multiple myeloma patients, but effective new drug treatment will take a few more years," said Professor Franzoso. (vb)

Author and source information


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