New breakthrough gives hope to cancer sufferers
By Rachel Carbonell, ABC
Updated July 10, 2012, 1:59 pm
Researchers are trialling a breakthrough treatment aimed at killing cancerous blood cells while leaving healthy cells largely unharmed.
Professor Grant McArthur at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne says the new trial will focus on blood cancers which have not responded to other treatments.
“The trial will be open for both lymphomas and leukaemias that have not responded optimally to other treatments,” Professor McArthur said.
“Our initial studies have focused on cancers that are hard to treat, because it’s a real unmet need there and patients with those cancers desperately need new treatments, which is why we’re focused initially on that area.”
Professor McArthur says the treatment is unique because it is able to target cancerous cells and have minimal effect on healthy ones.
“All cells in our body need to make proteins to be able to grow and there’s a protein factory in our cells called the ribosomes, and we have discovered unexpectedly that cancer cells have a real Achilles heel in their ribosomes,” he said.
“You can actually turn off protein synthesis and selectively treat the cancer cells without killing the normal cells.”
Professor McArthur also says there is potential to expand the treatment to other types of cancers.
“(This is) a new approach to treating cancer,” he said.
“It’s not damaging DNA, it’s not turning off enzymes that are called protein kinases that are now very commonly targets in cancer cells; it’s an entirely new process to target for drug treatment in cancer.”
Cancer sufferer Simone Le Calvez says the development could help patients burdened by the side-effects of traditional cancer treatments.
“For me, I think the hardest part has been undergoing stem cell transplant and all the side effects associated with that,” Ms Le Calvez said.
“Because really they are wiping out your body and sort of basically rebooting you to try and wipe away the disease, any memory of the disease.”
Ms Le Calvez was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2009 and underwent a stem cell transplant after six rounds of chemotherapy failed to treat her symptoms.
“I was so excited when I heard about the breakthrough,” she said.
“The notion that healthy cells will not be impacted by treatment is just so exciting and I can only imagine how other patients would feel who have undergone chemo.
“You could actually get treatment, you could actually have your disease cured or at least partially put into remission and not have the awful side-effects such as hair loss or vomiting or nausea.”