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PARP: Wonder drug for cancer
Published on 28 Jun. 2011 1:03 AM IST
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A breast cancer wonder drug could be turned into a universal weapon against tumours. Newcastle University researchers said a family of cancer drugs, known as PARP inhibitors, affect the way tumour cells repair themselves. These inhibitors target hereditary forms of breast cancer as well as ovarian prostate cancer and pancreatic tumours with the same rogue gene, the journal Nature Medicine reports.
The drugs exploit the “Achilles heel” of hereditary forms of breast cancer. This is caused by a flaw in a gene called BRCA1, which limits the cells’ ability to repair damage to their DNA, according to the Daily Mail. Healthy cells have two ways of patching up damage - which allows them to breed, grow and spread - but cells in BRCA tumours have only one.
PARP inhibitors block this remaining pathway, stopping the tumour cells from multiplying, eventually leading them to die. Some breast, ovarian and prostate tumours have flawed BRCA genes - but account for a small proportion of all cancers.
The research would allow the drugs to be used on tumours which do not have this genetic flaw, by effectively recreating the defect. In experiments on mice with lung tumours, the researchers showed that blocking a molecule called Cdk1 also stopped DNA repair. When the animals were given a PARP inhibitor, it successfully shrunk their cancer.
Nicola Curtin of the university said: “Blocking Cdk1 compromises DNA repair in cancer cells, making them sensitive to PARP inhibitors.” “We were also able to show that this approach only targeted cancer cells. Now we need to develop an effective drug that can block Cdk1, so more patients can benefit from treatment with PARP inhibitors. It could be widely applicable, possibly universally,” she said. Lesley Walker from Cancer Research UK, which funded the research, said: “We could have a powerful new tool to treat cancer patients.”

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