Scientists hail breakthrough in new cancer drug that kills tumours

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The new drug targets a protein found in almost call cancers which helps tumours to grow and multiply (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The new drug targets a protein found in almost call cancers which helps tumours to grow and multiply (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Scientists have developed a groundbreaking experimental cancer drug that kills all solid tumours while leaving other cells unharmed which is in early research.

The pill targets a protein present in most diseases that helps tumours grow and multiply in the body. It is hoped the research will now help millions of cancer sufferers. The achievement is the culmination of 20 years of research and development by the City of Hope Hospital in Los Angeles, one of America's largest cancer centres. Most targeted therapies focus on a single treatment, which enables cancer to mutate and eventually become resistant.

However, the cancer-killing pill Malkas - codename AOH1996 - targets a cancerous variant of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), a protein that, in its mutated form, is critical in DNA replication and repair of all expanding tumours.

The development is significant because PCNA was previously thought to be "undruggable". Dr Linda Malkas, professor at the City of Hope, told how the molecule selectively disrupts DNA replication and repair in cancer cells, leaving healthy cells unaffected.

She said: "Most targeted therapies focus on a single pathway, which enables wily cancer to mutate and eventually become resistant. PCNA is like a major airline terminal hub containing multiple plane gates. Data suggests PCNA is uniquely altered in cancer cells, and this fact allowed us to design a drug that targeted only the form of PCNA in cancer cells. Our cancer-killing pill is like a snowstorm that closes a key airline hub, shutting down all flights in and out only in planes carrying cancer cells.

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“Results have been promising. AOH1996 can suppress tumour growth as a monotherapy or combination treatment in cell and animal models without resulting in toxicity. The investigational chemotherapeutic is currently in a Phase 1 clinical trial in humans at City of Hope.”

Study co-author associate research professor Dr Long Gu, said: “No one has ever targeted PCNA as a therapeutic because it was viewed as ‘undruggable,’ but clearly City of Hope was able to develop an investigational medicine for a challenging protein target. We discovered that PCNA is one of the potential causes of increased nucleic acid replication errors in cancer cells.

"Now that we know the problem area and can inhibit it, we will dig deeper to understand the process to develop more personalised, targeted cancer medicines.” The results will now need to be replicated in people. The drug is currently being tested on humans in a Phase 1 clinical trial at City of Hope.

Christopher Bucktin

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