This week sees double hope for cancer sufferers as breakthroughs are reported in the treatment of both breast cancer and skin cancer.
Fresh hope for skin cancer sufferers
A drug, which can increase the lifespan of skin cancer patients by up to four years, has been licensed for use in the UK, marking the biggest advancement in the treatment of skin cancer since the 1970s.
The drug doubles the chances of survival against the most dangerous form of skin cancer, increasing life expectancy by an average of almost four months - where the cancer has spread to other organs - with some patients surviving four years following treatment.
According to The Daily Mail, the drug, ipilmumab, could benefit up to 2,000 patients in the UK each year.
The rationing body NICE will decide next February if the NHS can afford the treatment which costs £18,000 per course although the treatment will be available in the North West of England and West Midlands through the Cancer Drugs Fund.
Dr Paul Lorigan, Senior Lecturer in Medical Oncology at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust, one of the leading trial centres for ipilimumab, told The Daily Mail: “The authorisation of ipilimumab represents a real advance in the treatment of patients with advanced melanoma as this is the first treatment for 30 years in the UK to extend patients’ life expectancy.
“After years of no progress in the treatment of this terrible illness, we have now made a stride forward.”
Breakthrough in breast cancer treatment
Scientists have discovered a naturally occurring molecule in bacteria that can block the growth of breast cancer, which could lead to the development of more powerful and targeted drugs.
The molecule, thiostrepton blocks FOXM1, the cancer-causing protein that is present in greater amounts in breast cancer cells. According to the study published in Nature Chemistry, this could prevent the development of cancer at an early stage as well as blocking its growth and spread.
Its lead author, Professor Shankar Balasubramanian, based at Cancer Research UK in Cambridge, said: "Before this research we weren't aware of any natural product which could directly target a protein that controls gene activity. Yet intriguingly a molecule in bacteria – which also has strong antibiotic effects – does this very well, switching off cancer-causing genes in breast cancer cells."
Dr Lesley Walker, the organisation's director of cancer information, said: "It's fascinating to discover how a simple bacteria could hold the key to powerful new approaches to treat breast cancer developing and spreading."