Thousands of patients suffering breast and prostate cancer could benefit from a new drug, experts said today.
Cancers such as breast and prostate are often fuelled by sex hormones, including oestrogen or testosterone.
Many patients can benefit from hormone therapies aimed at cutting levels of these hormones, thereby ‘starving’ the cancer and halting tumour growth.
But some people have cancers that are resistant to such treatments while others build up a resistance to the hormone drugs.
Such ‘hormone-independent’ cancer cells are a major challenge to treat and current therapies are limited.
Now a study published in the British Journal of Cancer has revealed promising results for a new drug, STX140.
It works by directly targeting the hormone-independent cancer cells, causing them to naturally ‘commit suicide’ – a process known as apoptosis.
STX140 starves cancer cells of essential nutrients by stopping the growth of new blood vessels inside the tumours.
Dr Simon Newman, from Imperial College London and lead author on the paper, said: ‘Although at an early stage, the results of our study show that by targeting tiny structures within cells we can overcome the huge problem of resistance to hormone therapy.
‘STX140 works by disrupting the action of microtubules – components of cells involved in cell division – causing the cell to stop dividing and eventually die.
‘We hope that our new drug, STX140, will enter clinical trials so we can test whether this treatment will be effective in humans.
‘If the trial results reflect what our lab tests show, we could produce a treatment for cancer patients resistant to hormone therapy, hopefully with fewer side effects than conventional drugs.’
The study involved introducing the drug to human cell lines, which showed promising results.It was then given to mice orally each day for 60 days.
Five out of eight tumours shrank in size, with two disappearing completely after 88 days.
The three tumours that failed to get smaller still responded to the drug by staying the same size, according to the study.
Around eight out of 10 men with prostate cancer will respond to hormone therapy, but many of them will become resistant to the drugs during their treatment, according to Cancer Research UK.
Although breast cancer treatments can be very effective, there are fewer treatment options for patients with hormone-independent cancer.
The treatments on offer include the taxane family of drugs, which include paclitaxel (Taxol) and docetaxel (Taxotere).
Taxanes are known to have side-effects which mean they can only be given every three weeks by injection into the blood stream, according to Cancer Research UK.
The side effects include nausea, tiredness, infections, diarrhoea and tingling in the fingers and toes.
The charity said that not only could STX140 be given orally, it was also found to be more effective than taxanes on the mouse tumours.
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