A metal used to coat aircraft and turn paper and paint white could provide a lifeline for thousands of women with untreatable ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer can be hard to treat
Ovarian cancer can be very difficult to treat as a significant proportion are innately resistant to current platinum-based drugs, and over three-quarters develop some form of resistance during the course of treatment.
However, Dr Patrick McGowan, of Leeds University, has developed a titanium-based compound that may be the answer.
In laboratory tests the compound successfully killed many types of cancer cells, including those from ovarian tumours.
It even appears to be effective against resistant cells.
Dr McGowan has overcome the main barrier to using the metal in a drug, by inventing a compound which is both soluble and stable in water, and therefore in the bloodstream.
Titanium has the added advantage of being considerably cheaper than platinum.
Researchers Patrick McGowan and Olivia Allen
Dr McGowan said: "This is just the first stage, but the results so far are very promising.
"The University has filed patents for the compound, and further trials are already under way to find out exactly how the compound works.
"Once we know that, we can continue to improve on it, though we're still perhaps 10 years away from a new treatment."
Dr Emma Knight, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "Ovarian cancer is often difficult to treat because of late diagnosis and resistance to treatment.
"As a result, the five-year survival rate of patients with this disease is less than 30%.
"This titanium-based compound looks promising in this experimental system.
"However, these are very early results, and many more experiments are needed to evaluate its full potential as an anti-cancer drug."
Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women in the UK, with nearly 7,000 new cases each year.