A new drug has been developed in a laboratory in Melbourne, Australia, which has seen cancer tumours being shrunk. The next phase of the research is to undertake human trials to assess the drug’s benefits in treating mesothelioma, the asbestos related cancer. The aim is to begin the trials later this year.
To date no cure has been found for mesothelioma, a cancer associated only with asbestos exposure. All treatment options currently available are concerned with palliative care and extending the period of survival.
Australia has a very significant asbestos history with substantial amounts of asbestos mining having taken place over decades. As a country it has the world’s highest rate of the fatal cancer, mesothelioma, with 5 year survival rates quoted as less than 10%.
Professor Tom John, senior clinical research fellow Associate at the Olivia Newton John Cancer Research Institute, has stated that the drug was an antibody drug conjugate which binds to a target on the surface of the cancer cell and releases small packets of chemotherapy. The drug is designed to kill only the bad cells, unlike other more traditional drugs and chemotherapy which cannot distinguish between cells and kill both good and bad.
The treatment was discovered following Professor John’s decision to see if the human mesothelioma cancers he had grown in mice expressed the same molecule his colleagues in the next door lab were working on in relation to brain cancer. He said, “Lo and behold, they did.”
The research carried out on mice showed the tumours shrink during treatment but showed them to grow back if the treatment was stopped. Professor John has issued a word of caution to keep optimism controlled by saying that many researchers can cure cancer in mice and so human trials are vital before conclusions can be drawn, however, mesothelioma does not typically respond to any treatment in this way and so there is significant hope.
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Quotes from www.heraldsun.com.au