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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 October 2007, 00:03 GMT 01:03 UK
'Promising drug' for child cancer
Child cancer patient
Childhood cancer survival rates are improving all the time
Laboratory tests suggest a new drug may prove effective in tackling three types of childhood cancer, a scientific conference has heard.

The drug RH1 was able to kill tumour cells from neuroblastoma, osteosarcoma and Ewing's sarcoma, all of which can be resistant to current treatment.

In a pre-clinical study, University of Manchester scientists found the drug could boost cancer cell death by 50%.

They now want to hold a clinical trial involving children with cancer.

RH1 effectively encourages cancer cells to kill themselves.

All cells have an inbuilt suicide mechanism which becomes active when they become damaged or grow uncontrollably, but in cancer cells this mechanism either switches off or stops working properly.

From adult to child

The first stage of a clinical trial of RH1 in adult cancer patients has been completed, and has been found to be particularly effective in tumours with a certain sort of enzyme - DT-diaphorase - found in cancers of the lung, liver and breast.

In many cases, patients become resistant to their drugs and need new options
Dr Bruce Morland

Dr Guy Makin, the study's lead researcher at Cancer Research UK's Paterson Institute, said it was "very exciting" to be able to work with a drug for children that had only just completed the first stage of adult trials.

"We hope that this will be just the first of many new agents that we can show are useful for treating childhood cancer," he told the National Cancer Research Institute Conference in Birmingham.

According to Cancerbacup, some 100 children develop neuroblastoma and around 60 children develop osteosarcomas or Ewing's sarcoma in the UK each year.

"Survival rates for children with cancer are high at 75%," said Dr Bruce Morland, chairman of the Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG).

"But in many cases, patients become resistant to their drugs and need new options."

One parent of a child who had been blinded by neuroblastoma at 18 months old welcomed the news.

"We were devastated to hear that Louis had neuroblastoma, and finding out that he had been blinded by the disease was really hard to deal with," said Michael Moorhouse, from Bradford.

"He's now doing well and is like any other six-year-old boy, enjoying life and pursuing his passion for drumming.

"It's really encouraging to see new research like this that could help children like Louis in the future."

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