Cancer researchers at Cardiff University have identified a new drug that can inhibit the spread of breast cancer by metastasis. One of the key risks of developing cancer, especially cancer of the breast, is the danger of the cancer spreading through the bloodstream, to critical organs such as the lungs, brain or alimentary canal. This spread of cancer is termed metastasis, a silent killer that has resulted in over 36,600 deaths in women suffering from breast cancer just in the United States in 2013. Scientists in Wales have isolated the Bc13 gene as the primary gene responsible for the spread of breast cancer and the new drug developed at the university is expected to prevent the spread of the disease.
The Bc13 gene has recently been identified as one of the genes that influence the spread of all cancers. It has been identified by a team of researchers headed by Dr. Richard Clarkson of the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute in Cardiff. Computer models generated by the team have identified surface characteristics that are necessary for the gene to function. Further research in this area has identified a chemical agent that can effectively suppress the gene and hinder the metastasis or rapid spread of the cancer cells. “These results (on mice) seen in the laboratory are very encouraging and if they can be reproduced in clinical trials it would have major clinical benefits for many breast cancer patients,” Dr. Clarkson said. The normal protocol is that the cancer researchers who have identified this new drug will have to wait for permission to perform clinical trials, to test whether it will indeed inhibit breast cancer.
The United States is expected to benefit immensely from this discovery. Breast cancer rates in the United States are among the highest among all cancers with diagnosis and death rates second only to lung cancer and skin cancer respectively. Gene mutations caused by ageing and environmental factors are said to be the cause of 85 percent of breast cancer in women who have no family history of the disease.The subsequent metastasis is typically a function of age, gender and general health.
All testing of the new drug identified by cancer researchers that inhibits the spread of breast cancer is limited to the laboratory. However, the results from the early stages are promising. Dr. Clarkson has indicated that laboratory tests show that the suppression of the gene could reduce the spread of cancer by about 80%. Despite falling fatality rates for breast cancer in the United States, there are no drugs that have been able to successfully inhibit the metastasis of cancerous cells to a significant degree. UK biotech firm Tiziana Pharmaceuticals has agreed to sponsor the work of the research team at Cardiff so that the drug can be optimized and brought to the clinical testing stage to offer hope to the men and women who suffer from the debilitating effects of this disease. The drug is expected to benefit over 1.3 million patients around the world of which about 297,000 cases are in the United States alone.
By Grace Stephen