Apr 25, 2013

One new type of medication may treat many cancers

Wouldn't it be great if there were medications that would treat many types of cancer? Well, they might be on the horizon.

For the first time ever, three different pharmaceutical companies; Merck, Roche, and Sanofi, are testing drugs that, hopefully, will restore a mechanism that normally makes badly damaged cells self-destruct. This is the norm in our bodies. Remember that cancer cells are dangerous because they do not self-destruct.

A protein molecule known as p53 normally allows damaged cells in the body to self-destruct but, in about half of all cancers, it is disabled when another protein molecule found in cancer cells, MDM2, attaches to it. This stops cancer cell death and allows the cancer to keep growing. Researchers have long hoped to find a way to restart p53.

Recent research has found ways to break the two proteins apart, allowing the p53 gene to once again trigger the death of damaged (cancerous) cells. Testing with mice has been quite successful.

It doesn't seem to matter whether the cancer is identified as breast, colon, lung, prostate, cervical, or one of many other cancers. The process is the same. Current trials are in very early stages, testing safety and finding a dose that is effective in humans. Small numbers of people with a variety of cancers will be carefully monitored while the treatment is tested in clinical trials.

Don’t expect an FDA approved drug very soon, but the implications are positive. If one medication can treat up to half of all cancers it would have a major effect on costs, treatments, and results. Stay tuned.

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(c) 2012 Tom Beer and Larry Axmaker

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