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Groundbreaking research discovers how to put cancerous cells to “sleep,” for good


Angellodeco - Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 08/05/19

A team of Australian scientists developed a new anti-cancer drug which could prevent relapse in cancer patients.

A joint effort by researchers all over Australia has yielded a new cancer treatment which, Medical News Today reports, can stop the division of cancerous cells without affecting the healthy cells.

The team of 53 scientists and researchers from such research organizations as the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Monash University, Cancer Therapeutics CRC, The University of Melbourne, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the CSIRO, have published their findings in the journal Nature. There, they explain that their research was focused on two proteins which are normally associated with the development of different types of cancer: KAT6A and KAT6B.

Tim Thomas, one of the lead researchers on the project, told Medical News Today:

“Early on, we discovered that genetically depleting KAT6A quadrupled the life expectancy in animal models of blood cancers called lymphoma. Armed with the knowledge that KAT6A is an important driver of cancer, we began to look for ways of inhibiting the protein to treat cancer.”

Previous methods of cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy cannot be isolated enough to attack just the cancer and often damage the surrounding tissue. These treatments can also have a devastating effect on the immune system. These traditional methods attack the DNA of cancerous cells, and thus damage the DNA of the surrounding healthy cells.

Anne Voss, another leader from the study, explained to Medical News Today that their new treatment would not attack the DNA of cells and is potentially much safer. She said:

“Rather than causing potentially dangerous DNA damage, as chemotherapy and radiotherapy do, this new class of anticancer drugs simply puts cancer cells into a permanent sleep… The cells are not dead, but they can no longer divide and proliferate. Without this ability, the cancer cells are effectively stopped in their tracks.”

Voss admits that the new research is in a very early stage and has a long way to go before it is ready for clinical trials. However, she is hopeful that the newly developed compounds will lead to a treatment which can “prevent relapse after initial treatment.”

Jonathan Baell, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, another author in the study, noted that there were “many hurdles” just to get their work this far. He said:

“But with perseverance and commitment, we are excited to have developed a potent, precise, and clean compound that appears to be safe and effective in our preclinical models.”

The study did not give any indication as to when this new treatment would be available for use on human patients, but they are working to bring it to cancer treatment facilities as soon as possible.

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