Lives of countless women could be salvaged after scientists find a way to stop breast cancer spreading into the bones. Experts expect the discovery will cut down the rate associated with the disease, which affects more than 50,000 people in the UK every year. Scientists at Sheffield University claim they’ve found a way of stopping cancerous cells from burrowing into a patient’s bones.
Secondary tumours in the bones are the culprits behind around 85 per cent of the 12,000 breast cancer deaths seen in the UK every year.
The team has however found a type of drug which possibly can stop cancer from penetrating the bones in about 30 per cent of these cases.
The drugs, termed bisphosphonates, have up to now been used as treatment for osteoporosis.
The finding, published last night in the journal Nature, calls for further clinical trials to verify the drug’s efficacy, and safety.
However, if the trials are fruitful, the fact that the drugs are already licensed for human use should speed up their deployment.
The team working under the supervision of experts at Sheffield University, hope that trials will validate the drugs can effectively isolate breast cancer in the most at-risk patients, thus stopping the disease from spreading.
Primary tumours in the breast are comparatively easy to treat, as they can be just removed with surgery or targeted with chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
But the moment cancer spreads to another part of the body – a process called as metastasis – it becomes untreatable.
Secondary breast cancers are accountable for most breast cancer deaths, and the most common site for the disease to spread is the bone.
Now, Scientists from Sheffield University, the Institute of Cancer Research in London, and the University of Copenhagen have discovered a key component of the mechanism by which the cancer cells dig into the bone.
As per researchers the new finding could improve the prognosis of patients with the ER-negative form of the disease, who make up about 30 per cent of all breast cancer patients.
Research co-leader Dr Alison Gartland, a bone specialist at the University of Sheffield, said last night: ‘This is really exciting.
‘ER-negative patients are the ones with the poorest prognosis – they are the ones who really need identifying and treating.
‘This is important progress in the fight against breast cancer metastasis, increasing the chances of survival for thousands of patients.’
Her research team found that ER-negative breast tumours release an enzyme termed LysYl Oxidase – or LOX – which attacks the bones.
The enzyme creates holes in the bones’ surface, enabling the cancerous cells to get in.
‘It is like the LOX enzyme is fertilising the soil of the bone, making it an attractive site for the cancer to grow,’ said Dr Gartland.
‘We have shown that bisphosphonates inhibit this process by stopping LOX interacting with the bone cells.’
Researchers demonstrated that the drug works on human cells in the lab, and later backed their results up with tests on mice.
‘We had 100 per cent results,’ said Dr Gartland. ‘Of the mice we tested, none developed metastatic tumours.’
The team will now conduct a series of clinical trials, to test how effective the drug is on a large number of patients.
But in view of the fact that bisphosphonates are already used to treat osteoporosis, alongside using them to boost bone mass in breast cancer patients, they already know it is safe for human use.
Researchers are confident that in a few years the drug would be commonly used on the NHS.
Just after a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer, a simple blood test could be used to spot the presence of the LOX enzyme.
Bisphosphonates would then be administered forthwith thus stopping the cancer from spreading.
COULD THE HERPES VIRUS HALT THE SPREAD OF SKIN CANCER?
A genetically engineered herpes virus has been shown to stop the metastasis of skin cancer, finishing off diseased cells and kick-starting the immune system into action against tumours.
This conclusion has been drawn in a landmark clinical trial of a brand new drug performed at 64 research centres across the world.
It could be on the market in a year but there are fears it may be too costly for the NHS after it refused to buy a number of high-profile new cancer drugs on the basis of cost.
The new treatment is believed to be a potential cure to skin cancer, called malignant melanoma, a deadly form of cancer which causes 2,000 deaths a year in Britain.
Scientists opine this one of its kind study has shown beyond doubt that immunotherapy is beneficial to cancer patients
The study was done under the supervision of researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden Hospital.
436 patients with aggressive, inoperable malignant melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer, participated in the trial.
All the subjects were given either an injection of the viral therapy, named Talimogene Laherparepvec (T-VEC), or a control immunotherapy.
Scientists found that 16.3 per cent of the group taking T-VEC showed a durable treatment response of more than six months, compared with 2.1 per cent of the control group.
A few subjects showed a response extending in excess of three years – a mark oncologists often use as a benchmark for cure in immunotherapy.
In 40 per cent of cases in which it worked, the tumours disappeared or shrunk by more than 50 percent.
And the new drug doesn’t cause any harm to healthy cells. Amazing!