A new drug to treat patients with bone marrow cancer without the toxic side-effects is expected to go on trial next year, Imperial College London (ICL) has said.
Although designed to help patients with multiple myeloma, a rare form of bone marrow cancer, it will also be tested to see if it could be used on patients suffering other blood cancers, as well as ovarian and colon cancer.
“We have designed a drug that would kill the cancer module but doesn’t appear to have any side-effects or impact on the normal cells”
Professor Guido Franzoso, from the department of medicine at ICL, who led the research, said the crucial element to the new therapy is its ability to kill a key module within the cancer cell without damaging healthy cells, a problem that can limit the effectiveness of other cancer drugs.
It also appears to not have the “aggressive” side-effects associated with cancer treatments when tested on mice, he said.
Professor Franzoso said: “There have been many improvements in treating multiple myeloma over the past 10 to 15 years but really there is no cure.
“With an aggressive therapy life expectancy is about five or six years so there was a need for a new drug,” he said. “We have designed a drug that would kill the cancer module but doesn’t appear to have any side-effects or impact on the normal cells.
“The hope its that this drug will, used along with other therapy, treat the cancer and potentially even cure the patient and at the same time improve the quality of life because we don’t expect it to have the same side-effects that current drugs have,” said Professor Franzoso.
“The side-effects of cancer treatments are very severe and really do have an effect on the quality of life of patients and at some point the patient can’t tolerate them any more,” he said.
“We do have some evidence that it will help other blood cancers, ovarian and colon cancers,” he added.
Multiple myeloma affects the plasma cells inside the bone marrow, which are an important part of the immune system.
Myeloma does not usually take the form of a lump or tumour but instead the myeloma cells divide and expand within the bone marrow, which can cause bone pain and fractures.
This research, which will be published in the journal Cancer Cell, has been funded by the Medical Research Centre (MRC), the US National Institutes of Health, and Cancer Research UK.
The human trial, to begin in October next year, will be funded by the MRC.