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Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 23:12 GMT 00:12 UK
Testicular cancer offers cure hopes
Testicular cancer is particularly sensitive to chemotherapy
Testicular cancer is particularly sensitive to chemotherapy
Success in treating testicular cancer could give scientists the blueprint for curing other types of cancer.

There have been huge improvements in the treatment of testicular cancer over the last 25 years.

Now scientists from University College London hope to alter the cells of other cancers to make them more like testicular cancer cells, increasing the chances of successful treatment.

About 1,700 men are affected by testicular cancer every year in the UK - but it is successfully treated in over 90% of cases.

This research... provides one way in which we might be able to level the playing field

Dr Mary Berrington,

The key to the cure is a drug called cisplatin, which was developed by research bodies including the Cancer Research Campaign (CRC).

The drug kills cancer cells by damaging DNA. Testicular cancer cells are less able to repair that damage than other cancer cells.

They are also sensitive to chemotherapy.

Two-pronged attack

Professor John Masters, who is leading the project, said: "Improving our understanding of why testicular cancer cells are so poor at repairing damage to their DNA will give us important insights into treating many other types of cancer."

Professor John Hartley, who is also involved in the project, added that they were looking at a two-pronged attack on cancer cells.

"We are already exploring the possibility of giving cancer patients two types of drug, one to knock out their cancer's DNA repair system and another to deal the critical blow that makes the tumour shrink."

The research was announced at the start of June's Men's Cancer Awareness Month, which is set to focus on better treatments and earlier diagnosis for prostate and testicular cancers.

The scientists have found that testicular cancer cells have low levels of three particular protein molecules which are needed for the repair of DNA damage.

The research aims to discover why levels are so low in testicular cancer cells and what keeps them at that level.


It will also look at whether mirroring the reduction of levels of the key proteins will make other cancers more sensitive to chemotherapy.

Dr Mary Berrington, the CRC's science information manager, said: "One of the most frustrating things about the fight against cancer is that while we have made significant progress against some cancers, others have proved much more resistant to treatment.

"This research is exciting, because it provides one way in which we might be able to level the playing field a little and improve the cure rate of some of the most stubborn types of cancer."

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