LIFESTYLE

New Breast Cancer Treatment To Attack 'Sweet Tooth' Of Tumours

01/08/2013 11:00 BST | Updated 01/08/2013 11:13 BST

Attacking the sweet tooth of tumours could provide a new treatment for breast cancer, research has shown.

By blocking certain proteins, scientists found they could stop breast cancer cells using sugar to fuel their growth.

Active tumours are most targeted and healthy cells left alone, thereby reducing the chances of unwanted side effects.

woman patient

Lead scientist Dr Jeremy Blaydes, from the University of Southampton, said: "Because this is an entirely new approach to treatment, the drugs we are developing could be effective against breast cancers that have become resistant to current chemotherapies.

"Unfortunately, despite great improvements in breast cancer treatment in recent years, chemotherapy-resistance eventually happens in around one in five cases, and every year in the UK around 12,000 women still die from the disease. To overcome this resistance, innovative treatments that use new approaches to stop cancer from growing are desperately needed."

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All cancer cells love sugar, grabbing it from the blood and using it to fuel their growth.

In breast cancer the process involves binding proteins called CtBPs together to form pairs known as dimers. These in turn help the cells to multiply and proliferate.

Dr Blaydes' team, funded by the charity Breast Cancer Campaign, found that chemicals called cyclic peptide inhibitors can block CtBPs and prevent the dimers forming.

The most successful of CtBP blocker, known as CP61, is now being developed as a potential new breast cancer drug.

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Dr Blaydes added: "What makes this discovery even more exciting as a potential treatment is that CtBPs are mostly only active in the cancer cells, so blocking this 'sweet tooth' should cause less damage to normal cells and fewer side effects than existing treatments.

"This work is at an early stage in the laboratory but it is really exciting as it has the potential to deliver a completely new kind of cancer drug, which could be available within 10 years."

The research is published in the August edition of the journal Chemical Science.

Dr Stuart Griffiths, research director at Breast Cancer Campaign, said: "For women whose breast cancer has become resistant to chemotherapy, this potential new treatment could offer a much needed lifeline.

"Every year, thousands of women still die and millions are affected by breast cancer so we will continue to seek out world-class research, bringing the brightest minds together to share knowledge and produce better, quicker results."

The research was partly funded through Breast Cancer Campaign's partnership with supermarket chain Asda and its Tickled Pink campaign, Debenhams' Think Pink campaign and The Generations Walk.