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NHS explains cancer drug findings

NHS Choices clarifies published research which claims its possible to identify chemicals that specifically kill cancer stem cells

NHS Choices clarifies published research which claims it's possible to identify chemicals that specifically kill cancer stem cells.

In response to the article 'Cancer: the end?' in the Daily Mirror on August 14, in which it was claimed that "cancer could be wiped out after scientists found a drug that kills the deadly stem cells which drive the growth of tumours", NHS Choices has published an explanation of the research on its website: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2009/08August/Pages/SalinomycinKillsBreastCancerCells.aspx

The NHS' online story – 'Drug kills key cancer cells' – explains in layman terms the findings of research conducted by Piyush Gupta and colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other research centres in the US. Results were published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Cell and formed the basis of the Daily Mirror article.

The study screened a large number of chemicals to identify any that would specifically target and kill the stem cells and found that salinomycin was better than the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel at killing breast epithelial cancer stem cells (CSCs). CSCs are believed to drive tumour growth and recurrence and have remained resistant to many cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Breast cancer cells treated with salinomycin in the laboratory were then injected into mice. The salinomycin pre-treatment reduced the number of mice that developed tumours compared to mice injected breast cancer cells that had been treated with paclitaxel. Injecting salinomycin into mice with breast (mammary) tumours slowed the growth of these tumours.

The researchers believe these findings show that it is possible to identify chemicals that specifically kill CSCs.

NHS Knowledge Services states, however, that "although the results for salinomycin seem promising, thus far it has only been tested on cells grown in the laboratory and initial experiments in mice, and it will need to undergo further testing of its effectiveness and safety in animals before researchers know whether or not it looks promising and safe enough for human tests."

According to the NHS Choices website: "Even if these various rounds of testing were all to prove successful, this would be a lengthy process."

17th August 2009

From: Healthcare

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