Category: Archive

Cancer breakthrough for Irish doctor?

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The treatment uses chemicals to stop cancer tumor cells reproducing in a manner that is much less toxic to healthy cells than standard chemotherapy.
“We’re very excited about it,” said Dr. Nuala McCabe, who works at the Breakthrough Research Center at the Institute of Cancer Research in London. “It’s a much more effective and sensitive treatment than chemotherapy.”
Most breast cancer patients are treated with drugs that kill tumor cells but also damage normal cells, leading to distressing side effects like nausea and hair loss.
The new treatment, however, using drugs known as PARP inhibitors, targets what McCabe calls the “Achilles heel” of hereditary cancer, killing cancer cells specifically and leaving normal cells relatively unharmed.
Breast cancer kills more Irish women than any other type of cancer, with around 600 deaths every year. Women carrying faults in genes known as BRCA 1 and 2 have up to an 85 percent chance of developing breast cancer by the age of 70. Currently there is no specific treatment available for these women. According to the research team, this new drug is likely to be very effective in killing tumor cells in people with faults in BRCA 1 and BRCA 2.
McCabe, who hails from Casavell, Co. Down, said that initially the PARP inhibitors would be used to treat women with hereditary breast cancer. But she hopes that 20 percent of all cancer patients will eventually benefit from the treatment.
“Its very significant because we hypothesize that it will be a lot more successful with a lot less side effects than chemotherapy,” she said. “But there’s still a long way to go.”
Researchers hope the drug will be available for use within five years.

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