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New research on preventing cancer from spreading

Animal research shows promising results that could help develop a new treatment for prostate cancer.

This research was done in the USA and is about preventing cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. It’s not about making an existing cancer lump go away. The scientists wanted to find out whether a protein called DNA-PKcs had something to do with cancer spreading and whether blocking this protein could then prevent cancer from spreading. Because they didn’t know much about this before the study, it would have been unsafe to do all the research on people so therefore they first did some tests in the laboratory with human tissues and then they used mice to test out things they wanted to learn more about.

So first the researchers looked at tissue samples in the laboratory from 200 men who had prostate cancer. After studying the cancer cells in the tissue samples, they found that the DNA-PKcs protein did seem to have an important role for the cancer to be able to spread to other parts of the body. Then, the researchers injected mice with prostate cancer cells from humans so that the mice developed a cancer tumour. That allowed the researchers to study what would happen if they gave mice with cancer a new treatment to block the DNA-PKcs protein. Because they wanted to test the effect of this new treatment, they split the mice into two groups so that only one of the groups was given the new treatment that was meant to block the DNA-PKcs protein. The other group of mice didn’t get any treatment so that the researchers could study the difference between the two groups. The encouraging result was that the researchers did discover that the new treatment – which is called a DNA-PKcs inhibitor (because they inhibit the protein) – did in fact reduce the spread of cancer in the group of mice that had received the treatment. The group of mice who did not receive the treatment (the protein inhibitor) did not show such a reduction in their cancer spreading. When mice stopped getting the DNA-PKcs inhibitor treatment their cancer started spreading.

The results of all the tests in the study suggests that the DNA-PKcs protein work in a similar way in humans. Therefore, after a bit more research on animals to see if the treatment seems safe and effective enough, the next step of this research would be to investigate whether the new treatment (the DNA-PKcs inhibitors) can be used on humans to help stop a cancer lump spreading to other parts of the body. So far, this research has only been done with cancer cells from prostate cancer so we don’t know if a potential new treatment could work for any other cancers too. So, this is promising results but we need more research to find out if it can lead to a new treatment that would help stop cancer from spreading in humans.

You can read more about this research at NHS Choices Health News website where you will also find other relevant links about the research.

This article was first published : 16.7.2015

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