New Blood Cancer Therapy Targets Cancer Cells, Spares Normal Cells.

Medical Breakthrough in Cancer Research

A new breakthrough in cancer research suggests that blood cancers could soon be effectively treated by therapies that kill cancer cells while sparing healthy cells.

Peter MacCallum and Professor Grant McArthur co-head the Cancer Therapeutics Program in Melbourne, Australia. Specialists from the Center have found a successful method for killing cancer cells by blocking the production of ribosomes, which are necessary for the growth and survival of cancer cells.

McArthur called the new method

“an additional weapon on top of traditional methods of fighting cancer”.

Cells use a process called ribosome biogenesis, a form of protein production, to grow. Cancer cells have a higher dependence on this process than do regular cells, thus making it possible for the new treatment to target the cancer cells and spare healthy cells.

“If you interfere with [cancer’s dependence on protein production] you can kill the cancer cells and spare the normal cells,” Associate Professor Ross Hannan said. The drug CX-5461 was developed, which blocks ribosome biogenesis and protein production.

“This is an exciting new concept to what is really a bit of a Holy Grail in cancer treatments,”

McArthur told AAP.

Chemotherapy, the traditional method for treating blood cancers, causes harm to the cancer cells as well as the healthy cells. This new method would be hard on the cancer but easy on the patient.

CX-5461 will be tested on 40 cancer patients in the coming year. It is given intravenously, like chemotherapy.

“We have a drug on our hands that, if tested successfully, has the potential to save lives,”

Prof Hannan said. He has spent most of his career investigating ribosomes in cancer cells.

This research was published in the journal Cancer Cell.

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