Brighton researchers' discovery may prolong cancer patients’ lives
Cancer patients around the world could have their lives extended thanks to a discovery made by Sussex scientists.
Researchers at the University of Sussex, who have been working with the Institute of Cancer Research, have found that a cutting-edge cancer drug may be able to keep patients alive for longer than they live now.
The discovery by the researchers, who looked at exactly how the drugs attack tumours, has been hailed as “unexpected and exciting”.
The drugs, known as kinase inhibitors, are a new type of treatment, with 25 currently in use on a variety of cancers.
Another 400 are under development.
Around 5,000 to 10,000 patients receive the drugs in the UK each year, with that number set to grow as more of the drugs are approved for use.
Kinase inhibitors work across types of breast, skin, lung and kidney cancer, but often only extend life by around three to six months.
Researchers believe they can unlock the true potential of the drugs by changing the way they are used – after uncovering a hidden way that they work.
Keeping cancer at bay
The researchers now plan to conduct clinical trials using kinase inhibitors at higher doses, but with rest periods to take advantage of the new mechanism – and believe the new method has the potential to keep cancers at bay for much longer.
Laurence Pearl, a professor of structural biology in the Medical Research Council Genome Damage and Stability Centre at the University of Sussex, said: “Basically, the drugs at the moment are used to slow the progress of the cancer, but from what we have discovered, they can also be used in another way that may |actually damage the cancer cells instead.
“It seems these drugs work in a different way than people realised and they may be able to do a lot more than we realised.
“It shows how important it is to understand the basic biology of how cancer drugs work.
“We have more work to do to understand this mechanism fully, but we are optimistic that our discovery will help many patients live for longer.”
Study co-author Professor Paul Workman, the deputy chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, said: “We already knew these drugs were very effective, but we now think they could be even better.
“There is more work to do to prove the benefit to patients, but these drugs are already approved so there are fewer regulatory burdens than usual to overcome to test our new idea.”