Breast cancer cure: Scientists discover drugs which can FIGHT killer disease

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

By: Lauren Clark


BREAST CANCER is the most common cancer in the UK, affecting both men and women. But scientists might have discovered a life-saving new drug.

Ground-breaking new research has revealed how breast cancer cells can be stopped from growing and spreading.

Scientists have created the first of a new generation of drugs which can fight, and possibly cure, breast cancer.

Researchers discovered that a protein called lysyl oxidase (also known as LOX) – already known to drive the spread and growth of cancerous cells – can be attacked by this prototype drug.

The major study, led by teams at the The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London and the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, is the first to reveal both how LOX can directly control breast cancer and how its actions can be slowed.

“We already knew that LOX had a role in cancer’s spread round the body, but to discover how it also appears to drive the growth of breast cancer cells is a real game changer,” says Professor Caroline Springer, joint senior author and Team Leader of Gene and Oncogene Targeting at the ICR.

“It means that drugs that disrupt LOX’s ability to promote growth signals might be able to slow or block cancer progression in patients – as we saw in mice.”

In the study, mice with breast cancer experienced a reduction in their tumours size and the spread of their cancer when the LOX gene had been removed. Importantly, they were able to survive more than 50 days and suffered no side-effects.

“Currently, when breast cancer spreads, it sadly becomes incurable. Developing treatments to prevent or slow the spread of breast cancer will therefore be absolutely critical if we are to stop women dying from the disease,” says Dr Richard Berks, Senior Research Communications Manager at Breast Cancer Now.

“This study confirms LOX as an exciting new target for breast cancer treatment – and one with great potential for the future.

“That it reveals highly potent drugs in development that could block LOX and reduce the spread of the disease is hugely promising, but more work is needed before a drug is ready to test in patients,” he adds.

These important new findings come as the UK still reports one of the lowest breast cancer survival rates in Western Europe, with 11,500 women and 80 men predicted to lose their lives in 2017 alone.

Breast cancer also remains the most common cancer in the UK – 700,000 have been told at some point that they are suffering – and affects significantly more women than men.

This year 50,000 women will be diagnosed and one in eight of the female population will suffer from the disease in their lifetime.However, as well as breast cancer, this new study could also be a breakthrough for tackling many other cancers too. LOX has previously been shown to be involved in bowel, prostate, pancreatic and lung cancer.

“LOX is also thought to play a role in a number of other cancers, so this research could also have applications beyond breast cancer,” says Dr Justine Alford, senior science information officer at Cancer Research UK.

“In this study we show how improving our knowledge of cancer biology can spearhead the development of new drugs,” says Professor Richard Marais, joint senior author and Director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute at The University of Manchester. “By understanding better how LOX works, we will make new precision drugs that could improve the survival of patients with many different types of cancer.”

In order for the new drug to become available to breast cancer patients its effectiveness and safety will first need to be tested in a series of clinical trials.