An experimental drug that could prevent the deadly spread of breast cancer has been tested by scientists at Cardiff University.
They believe it may even prevent secondary cancers from forming.
The new research builds on previous studies of a gene called BCL3 that appears to play a critical role in the spread of breast cancer.
“If a patient comes to the clinic with a metastatic cancer, what has happened is the primary tumour has started to migrate around the body. Now having identified BCL3 as a very important gene in this process, we then turned our attentions to trying to inhibit this gene, using a chemical agent,” said Cardiff School of Biosciences’ Dr. Richard Clarkson.
Researchers have used advances in 3D technology to model proteins around the gene in specific detail. The interaction of two proteins was studied enabling the design of a drug to block that interaction in a way that would stop the spread of the cancer cells.
First the computer models were tested in the laboratory and were found to be successful. Then further analysis showed that the compound they had developed stopped the spread of breast cancer cells in mice.
Clarkson believes eventually the drug will have the potential to become a therapy in breast cancer treatment:
“So the idea for this new potential therapeutic strategy is to – as soon as the patient comes to the GP’s clinic – to give a patient a therapeutic such as this, so that this would stop the process of metastasis, this migration around the body, in its tracks.”
There have been great improvements in treating the early stages of breast cancer but there has been a lack of drugs for dealing with metastasis, which can strike several years after an initial diagnosis.
Longer survival and better treatment is what the research team at Cardiff hope to achieve.
Funding to get to Phase 1 of clinical trials has been found but
it is likely to be another two years before that happens, and the first human patient is given the drug.