New Anti-Cancer Drug Shows Promise

An experimental cancer drug designed to cut off the blood supply that feeds tumors has shown promise in a small-scale trial on human volunteers, a study published this week says.

The drug blocks an enzyme involved in the processing of nitric oxide, a chemical that helps maintain the tumor’s blood supply, thus enabling cancer cells to grow and divide.

Doctors in London recruited seven women and 11 men in the test, a so-called Phase One trial under the lengthy three-phase process for assessing a new drug for safety and effectiveness.

Twelve had lung cancer, five prostate cancer and one had cervical cancer.

In eight patients who were given higher doses of the drug, L-NNA, scans showed that the blood volume in their tumors dropped sharply an hour after treatment, a fall that was maintained 24 hours later.

As for side effects, three patients suffered from hypertension and three had palpitations or an excessive heartbeat rate.

L-NNA stands for N-nitro-L-arginine, the enzyme that the blocker targets.

The researchers, led by Quan-Sing Ng of the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, say the “exciting” results warrant putting L-NNA through further trials. The paper is published by The Lancet Oncology journal.

Meanwhile, British researchers have developed genetically modified chickens that can lay eggs that contain the proteins required to develop anti-cancer drugs, the BBC reported.

The Roslin Institute, near Edinburgh, Scotland, the same research centre that first cloned a sheep, called Dolly, claims it produced five generations of chickens that can produce useful levels of proteins for the development of life-saving cancer drugs in their eggs.

“One of the characteristics of lots of medical treatments these days is that they’re very expensive,” Professor Harry Griffin, the institute’s director, was quoted as saying.

“The idea of producing the proteins involved in treatments of flocks of laying hens means they can produce in bulk, they can produce cheaply and indeed the raw material for this production system is quite literally chicken feed.”

According to the institute, it has bred about 500 genetically modified birds, though it may be another decade before a medicine is fully developed.

The BBC said on its website that some of the birds had been modified to lay eggs that contain miR24 – an antibody that has the potential to treat skin cancer – and others produce human interferon b-1a – which can be used to stop viruses from replicating in cells.

The proteins are secreted into the egg whites, and can then be extracted and purified.

Research into the process was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal this week.

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