Antifungal drug eliminates sleeping bowel cancer cells in mice
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An antifungal medication, commonly prescribed for toenail infections, could help eliminate dormant cells within bowel tumours, according to new research funded by Cancer Research UK and published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine today (Thursday).

Researchers at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute have shown in laboratory studies in mice, that itraconazole effectively halts the growth and progression of certain types of bowel cancer. The next step will be to see if this holds true in patients with the disease.

Dr Simon Buczacki, co-lead author and Cancer Research UK clinician scientist, said: “One of the biggest challenges in treating any cancer is the diversity of different cells within the same tumour. We’ve targeted a type of cell that lies asleep within bowel tumours, remaining unresponsive to treatment and putting the patient at risk of their cancer coming back.”

The Cambridge team characterised the molecular nature of dormant bowel cancer cells. These ‘sleeping’ cells are resistant to drugs, including chemotherapy, which work by targeting cells that are actively growing. So even if it looks like a treatment has worked, some of these dormant cells can later awaken after treatment has finished and lead to the tumour re-growing.

The scientists identified

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