Bowel cancer drug kills tumours

An international team says that in their trials, it took just minutes to home in on bowel tumours before dramatically shrinking them. And, in some cases, laboratory rodents whose cancer was thought to be terminal were cured.

The drugs also act by “stealth”, sneaking into cancerous areas without causing damage to the surrounding healthy cells, say the scientists.

In standard cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, drugs attack anywhere in the body, meaning healthy cells as well as cancerous ones are damaged. This indiscriminate attack on the body’s cells leads to side-effects including hair loss.

But, using the new technique, normal cells should not be affected, meaning that patients are spared the usual side effects, the ‘Daily Mail’ reported.

The team believes the technique could be used to combat other cancers, such as those of the breast, prostate and lung.

The scientists began by searching for a compound that targets tumours rather than healthy tissue. They settled on one called IF7, a small protein that seeks out the blood vessels that tumours need to grow and spread around the body.

They attached IF7 to a fluorescent probe and injected it into mice with bowel tumours. Within minutes, the tumours lit up. They then linked IF7 to a powerful cancer drug, gave the two-in-one compound to diseased mice, and saw tumours shrink.

The results were dramatic, with many treated tumours disappearing completely within a fortnight, even at low doses, say the scientists.

Writing in the ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’, the scientists said that IF7 targets tumours with “unprecedented” speed.

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