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Tuesday, May 5, 1998 Published at 08:21 GMT 09:21 UK


Humans to test mice 'cancer cure'
image: [ Drugs work in mice by starving tumours of blood ]
Drugs work in mice by starving tumours of blood

The BBC's Mike Donkin reports (2'27")
Scientists believe they may have made a breakthrough in the fight against cancer after tests showed a combination of two drugs kills any type of the disease in mice.

The treatment works by cutting off the blood supply to cancerous tumours. Given intravenously to mice, the drugs - proteins known as angiostatin and endostatin - shrink tumours and make them disappear.

Research into the drugs, which may also stop the disease spreading through the body, has now been made a priority at America's National Cancer Institute, which called the initial studies "remarkable and wonderful".

'Very promising'

Dr Robert Mayer, American Society of Oncology - 'great promise' (0'15'')
"I am putting nothing on higher priority than getting this into clinical trials," the research centre's director, Dr Richard D Klausner, told the New York Times.

He said he hoped to begin testing the drugs on small numbers of humans within a year.

But Dr Klausner and other experts stressed that the drugs had only been tested on mice and may not have the same effect on humans.

Drugs innovator, Dr Judah Folkman, a Harvard professor and researcher at Boston's Children's Hospital, called the combination of proteins "very promising", but warned that success might not carry over to human patients.

"We have to be careful with expectations," he warned.

No failures yet

The development of the drugs caps 30 years of research that began when Dr Folkman realised tumours cannot grow or spread without a steady blood supply.

Angiostatin stops the development of blood vessels that tumours depend on to grow.

Endostatin was developed from a protein produced by tumours that seems to stop other cancers from developing in the body.

Professor Karl Sikora, Imperial Cancer Research Fund :'Scientifically it is very exciting' (2'36")
Although it is not known which types of human cancer might respond to the new drugs, Dr Folkman said they have eliminated forms of colon, prostate, breast and brain cancers in mice.

Researchers have yet to find one type of the disease in mice they cannot beat.

News of the possible breakthrough sent shares soaring in company Entremed Inc which manufactures the drugs.


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