Experimental Drug Could Make Cancer Treatment More Effective

10.22.09 | FL News Team

A team of scientists is working on a drug to make a common cancer treatment more effective and less harmful. The study is being conducted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the National Cancer Institute. Researchers there found that mice treated with an experimental compound responded better to radiation, which is used to treat about half of all cancer patients. Tumors in mice that were given the drug grew back more slowly and 89-percent smaller after radiation treatments than the tumors in mice that got radiation alone. The drug also protected their skin, muscle, bone marrow and other cells from being damaged by the radiation. Researchers say the results held up when repeated over several years and on several different types of cancer. Details of the study are published in the journal "Science Translational Medicine."

The experimental drug blocks a specific protein from binding with a receptor molecule in mouse and human cells called CD47. Researchers are not sure why it makes radiation so lethal to cancer cells while preventing damage to other cells, but they believe it has something to do with protecting the immune system. So far, scientists have not seen any negative effects of the compound on genetically altered mice. However, they say it will take a lot more testing before the drug is proven safe and effective for humans