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Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 13:31 GMT
New generation of cancer drugs unveiled
research Cancer research breakthrough offers new hope

A new treatment for cancer has been unveiled which could lead to therapies for previously untreatable types of the disease.

The drug - known as 17 AAG - has been developed by the Institute of Cancer Research using a hi-tech approach rather than the traditional trial and error technique.

Scientists have used powerful x-rays, 3D computer images and "cancer chips" to study a molecule which helps activate cancer genes.


We are using this knowledge to develop even better and more powerful treatments
Professor Paul Workman, Institute of Cancer Research
An image of the Hsp90 molecule was generated onto a computer screen using x-ray pictures, allowing experts to study how it functions, how it is effected by cancer and how drugs might block it.

"Cancer chips" - computer-generated images containing representations of thousands of genes - are placed under a microscope so scientists can see the effect of the drugs targeted on them.

The result is 17 AAG, which prevents the molecule folding proteins into the shape required for cancer to form.

The first clinical trial is now being carried out at the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital, London.

"Cancer chips" enabled the scientists, led by Professor Laurence Pearl and Professor Paul Workman, to predict how individual patients would respond to the drug.

`Gives us hope'

Professor Workman said: "The fact that we are working in a new way and blocking more than one pathway to cancer using one drug gives us hope for those cancers for which there is no effective treatment, and for those which become resistant to existing drugs.

"17 AAG is the first of a new generation of drugs to result from a combination of these new technologies and we are using this knowledge to develop even better and more powerful treatments."

Early results show the drug may work on solid tumours which have so far been resistant to treatment. It could replace a cocktail of drugs some patients are now required to take.

Professor Pearl added: "Although the discovery of cancer genes is currently the hot topic in terms of research, it can only be useful if their structure and functions are understood."

The Institute of Cancer Research is Europe's largest research centre for the disease and brings together biologists who look at the workings of cancer genes and chemists who use the information to pioneer new treatments.

The institute has 250 scientists studying 100,000 genes.

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See also:
05 Jan 99 |  Health
Hopes for gentler cancer treatment
08 Mar 99 |  Health
Cancer cell 'suicide' breakthrough
08 Jan 99 |  Health
Cancer gene breakthrough

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