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Doctors believe there could be new hope for cancer patients whose illness is no longer responding to therapy, as they appear to have discovered a new class of drugs.
Supported by funding from Cancer Research UK, scientists from Imperial College London working with US scientists from Emory University have reported initial success in mice with a treatment known as ICEC0942.
The mice involved in the trial had breast cancer thought to be drug-resistant, but they responded positively to the administration of ICEC0942, with minimal side effects reported.
Following these early results, Carrick Therapeutics developed ICEC0942 into a molecule known as CT7001, which is currently being tested in pill form by human patients with seemingly drug-resistant cancer.
The drug works by targeting an enzyme known as CDK7, which is responsible for growing, replicating and dividing cells - a process that is typically very active in some drug-resistant forms of cancer, such as breast cancer, small-cell lung cancer and acute myeloid leukaemia.
As a result, directly targeting this enzyme with a drug could help to stop the growth and spread of cancer in its tracks, allowing a patient to be treated even after other therapy options have been exhausted.
Professor Charles Coombes of the university's department of surgery and cancer, explained: "Drugs such as these could help to shift the balance back in favour of the patients, potentially providing a new option to patients for whom existing treatments no longer work."
The department of chemistry's Professor Tony Barrett added: "This work is the result of extensive collaboration between chemists, biologists and clinicians, which has helped to bring a new treatment from discovery to clinical testing in record time, streamlining the process."
If the trial involving humans proves successful, another few years of tests will be needed before the drug can be made routinely available to cancer patients.
Written by James Puckle
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