Medical insurance news - Evidence found of 'druggable' DNA repair to target cancer cells
Medical insurance customers suffering from cancer could be given revolutionary new treatment aimed at blocking a key DNA damage repair enzyme called APE1, which could provide a new way to kill cancer cells containing BRCA genes, according to a recent study.
Research presented at this month's National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Conference in Liverpool by the University of Nottingham suggested the institution had tested the ability of molecules to stop APE1 from repairing DNA damage in breast, pancreatic and cervical cancer cells with the faulty genes.
The BRCA genes control a separate DNA pathway and cells with damaged BRCA1 or BRCA2 have a faulty repair kit, which allows weakened cells to accumulate faults and multiply.
This can increase the risk of developing cancer, especially ovarian and breast types of the disease.
However, scientists claim to have found that blocking the enzyme APE1 in these faulty BRCA cells can effectively hold up two repair routes at once, thus killing the cancer cells.
This technique is already being used with a new class of drugs called PARP inhibitors, which prevent cells from fixing faults in BRCA-deficient cells.
A study conducted by Breakthrough Breast Cancer in 2009 suggested that the use of PARP inhibitors could also kill cancer cells with a faulty PTEN gene, which is found in some skin, womb and colon cancers.
Faults in the PTEN gene account for 30 - 80 per cent of all breast, prostate, skin, womb and colon cancers.
Clinical senior lecturer and consultant in medical oncology and leader of the APE1 drug discovery research programme at the university Dr Srinivasan Madhusudan said the research provides initial evidence that APE1 is an important target in cancer treatment.
“Not only could these molecules provide a basis for new drugs to treat cancers with faulty BRCA genes - especially breast and ovarian cancer - but they could help ‘soften up’ cells from many cancer types to boost the effect of radiotherapy and chemotherapy,” he added.
DNA damage repair expert professor Steve Jackson said the treatment of knocking out two repair mechanisms simultaneously is emerging as an important way to treat cancer and strides have already been made to do this.
Professor Jackson said this promising new target could lead to more specific drugs capable of delivering double blows to cancer cells, which could potentially mean there would be fewer side effects for health insurance customers who recover from the illness. He also suggested that patients may be able to use these methods when people become resistant to conventional treatments.
Chief executive of Breast Cancer Campaign, which part funded the research, Baroness Delyth Morgan said the possible new treatments could help up to 4,800 women diagnosed with the disease in the UK each year.
"Currently there are limited options available to them and this potential new treatment, although at an early stage could provide a real lifeline and a better chance of survival, which can only be good news,” the Baroness added.
PARP inhibitors are currently still being tested in clinical trials but early signs suggest side effects of the treatment could be minimal, which is favourable when compared with other cancer treatments.