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Wednesday, 26 December, 2001, 00:07 GMT
Tumour cell growth blocked
Cancer cells
Cancer cells rely on chemicals to grow and divide
Scientists are developing a promising way to inhibit the growth of tumour cells.

The technique centres on blocking the production of two substances that tumour cells need to grow and proliferate.

We have several experiments under way, and it looks promising

Dr Mattias Belting
The crucial substances are proteoglycans and polyamines.

Proteoglycans are large molecules found on the surface of cells and in their surroundings. They consist of protein to which several carbohydrates are bound.

Scientists have shown that proteoglycans regulate the activity of other chemicals called growth factors which control the way cells divide.

One group of these growth factors are the polyamines.

Lab tests

Scientists from the University of California, San Diego and Lund University, Sweden, have successfully inhibited the formation of both polyamins and proteoglycans.

In experiments on cell cultures and on mice, this lead to a dramatic reduction in tumour cell growth.

The scientists emphasize that the project is still in the pure research stage, but they are hopeful for the future.

Researcher Dr Mattias Belting said: "Before we can start talking about clinical trials we want to be certain that the mechanism works in other animal species than mice.

"We have several experiments under way, and it looks promising."

Professor Gordon McVie, director general of the Cancer Research Campaign, said research had previously concentrated on trying to block either polyamins or proteoglycans.

He said that a combined approach might have a greater impact on cancer, but also had the potential to cause more side effects.

The key was to selectively target the cancer cells, while minimising the impact on healthy cells, which also rely on the two chemicals.

Professor McVie told BBC News Online: "We now tend to use drugs in combination to treat cancer as the disease has an astonishing propensity to swerve around just one metabolic roadblock."

The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

See also:

29 Aug 01 | Health
Tumour cells face 'suicide virus'
02 Sep 01 | Health
Cancer trail discovered
27 Jul 01 | Health
Cancer drug raises hopes of cure
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