Cancer :: New drug shows promise against cancer cells from young patients

A new drug has shown promising pre-clinical activity against cells from several types of children’s cancers, scientists reveal at the National Cancer Research Institute Conference in Birmingham.

Scientists from Cancer Research UK’s Paterson Institute at the University of Manchester have shown in laboratory tests that the drug RH1 can kill tumour cells from neuroblastoma, osteosarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma, three types of childhood and adolescent cancer that are often resistant to current types of chemotherapy.

Despite increases in survival rates for childhood cancers, new drugs are needed to combat drug resistance seen in current treatments. On the strength of these pre-clinical results, the researchers are planning a phase I trial for the drug involving children with cancer.

All cells have natural suicide mechanisms that become active when cells are damaged or grow uncontrollably. In cancer cells, this suicide mechanism switches off or becomes faulty and treatment is needed to encourage the process.

The researchers – based at the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research Manchester and the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital – found in their pre-clinical study that even very low doses of RH1 could increase cancer cell death by around 50 per cent when compared with untreated cells.

RH1’s activity is greatly enhanced by an enzyme, DT-diaphorase (DTD), which is found in higher quantities in many adult tumours, including lung, liver and breast cancers, and the drug has recently completed phase I studies in adults.

Dr Guy Makin, the study’s lead researcher from the Paterson Institute said: “We are very excited that we have been able to work with a new drug that has only just completed an adult phase I study. RH1 is a very potent agent and our pre-clinical results suggest that it could be effective against childhood tumours that express DTD. We hope that this will be just the first of many new agents that we can show are useful for treating childhood cancer.”

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