Scientists develop new drug to outflank cancer resistance

Dec 11, 2007
Scientists develop new drug to outflank cancer resistance

A new drug has shown promising results against breast and prostate cancer cells and tumours that are resistant to conventional hormone-based treatments, according to research published in the British Journal of Cancer today.

Cancers such as breast and prostate cancer are often fuelled by sex hormones, such as oestrogen or testosterone. Hormone therapy for breast or prostate cancer aims to reduce the levels of these hormones in the body, "starving" the cancer of these signals and halting tumour growth. Some cancers are resistant to this treatment from the outset while many build up a resistance to these drugs over time, their growth becoming hormone-independent – such cancers are a major challenge to treat.

Now, researchers have shown that a new drug – STX140 – directly targets hormone-independent cancer cells by initiating a natural suicide process within them. They also show that STX140 starves cancer cells of essential nutrients by stopping the growth of new blood vessels inside the tumours of mice.

Around eight out of every ten men with prostate cancer will respond to hormone therapy, but many of them will become resistant to the drugs during their treatment. Although breast cancer treatments are now very effective, there are fewer treatment options for patients with hormone-independent cancer.

Dr Simon Newman, lead author of the paper based at Imperial College London, 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."

After showing great promise in cell lines, STX140 was 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 did not get smaller responded to the drug by staying the same size.

Conventional treatments for hormone-independent cancers, including the taxane family of drugs, are associated with side effects that mean they can only be given every three weeks by injection into the blood stream. Not only could STX140 be given orally, it was also found to be more effective than taxanes tested on the same mouse tumours.

Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, which owns the British Journal of Cancer, said: "Research into how to overcome resistance to cancer drugs is vitally important, as this is a common problem that affects the treatment of many people with cancer. Building on existing drugs to create smarter targeted therapies is an exciting field of cancer research.

"Further tests are needed before we can tell if this drug can be used in people, but many thousands of patients stand to benefit from treatments that beat the mechanisms involved in resistance to cancer drugs."

Source: Imperial College London

Explore further: AstraZeneca cancer drug, companion test approved

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US seeks China's help after cyberattack

1 hour ago

The United States is asking China for help as it weighs potential responses to a cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment that the U.S. has blamed on North Korea.

Why the Sony hack isn't big news in Japan

18 hours ago

Japan's biggest newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, featured a story about Sony Corp. on its website Friday. It wasn't about hacking. It was about the company's struggling tablet business.

Hopes, fears, doubts surround Cuba's oil future

19 hours ago

One of the most prolific oil and gas basins on the planet sits just off Cuba's northwest coast, and the thaw in relations with the United States is giving rise to hopes that Cuba can now get in on the action.

Ancient clay seals may shed light on biblical era

19 hours ago

Impressions from ancient clay seals found at a small site in Israel east of Gaza are signs of government in an area thought to be entirely rural during the 10th century B.C., says Mississippi State University archaeologist ...

Recommended for you

Putting the brakes on cancer

Dec 19, 2014

A study led by the University of Dundee, in collaboration with researchers at our University, has uncovered an important role played by a tumour suppressor gene, helping scientists to better understand how ...

Peanut component linked to cancer spread

Dec 19, 2014

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that a component of peanuts could encourage the spread and survival of cancer cells in the body.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.