Ground-breaking treatment that only kills cancer cells unveiled

Updated: Jul 10, 2012, 18:32 PM IST

Melbourne: Melbourne scientists are trialling a breakthrough blood cancer treatment aimed at killing rogue cells while leaving the healthy ones largely unharmed.

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre specialists found that cancer cells could be selectively killed by blocking the production of ribosomes, which are essential to the growth and survival of the cells, reported.

"What is really quite remarkable and was quite unexpected was that normal cells are not so dependent on this formation of the ribosomes," the co-head of Peter Mac``s Cancer Therapeutics Program, Grant McArthur, said.

"This is an exciting new concept to what is really a bit of a ``Holy Grail`` in cancer treatments.

This means the treatment would be hard on the cancer but softer on the patient, he said.

"We``re always trying to come up with new cancer drugs that will kill the cancer and leave the normal cells in the body relatively unaffected or only with minimal side-effects," Prof McArthur said.

"There is a big push on to come up with new treatments that meet those criteria so we``re hopeful that this might be an example of that."

Prof McArthur and Associate Professor Ross Hannan worked with Californian biotechnology company Cylene Pharmaceuticals to develop a treatment that would block the cellular process.

The drug, CX-5461, is given intravenously like chemotherapy.

But, unlike chemotherapy which damages cell DNA, the new treatment specifically targets part of the cell called the nucleolus to interrupt the production of ribosomes.

The research was published recently in the journal Cancer Cell.