New chemical causes brain cancer cells to 'self-destruct', early trial shows

New chemical causes brain cancer cells to 'self-destruct', early trial shows

A synthetic chemical which causes aggressive brain tumour cells to ‘self-destruct’ could lead to a new generation of treatments for cancers like glioblastoma, a UK-led study has found.

Tests on glioblastoma tumour cells in mice showed the chemical, called KHS101, was able to shut off the energy supply to cancer cells, according to the study in journal Science and Translational Medicine.

The scientists had expected it to slow the cells’ growth, but it resulted in a much more dramatic effect, shrinking the size of the tumours and leaving the healthy brain cells untouched.

Over 2,000 people are diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive cancer that begins in the brain, in the UK every year and it has a five-year survival rate of less than­ 5%. Funded initially by UK Research and Innovation's Medical Research Council, the new study showed promising results which may lead to the development of a therapy to fight brain cancer in years to come.

Dr Heiko Wurdak, from the University of Leeds, who led the international research team, said: “This is the first step in a long process, but our findings pave the way for drug developers to start investigating the uses of this chemical, and we hope that one day it will be helping to extend people’s lives in the clinic.”

The team also reviewed how effective KHS101 would be against the different genetic profiles of cells within a tumour, and between tumours in different patients. Genetic variation in tumours has complicated efforts to identify treatments in the past, but the team found that all tested variations of glioblastoma subtype cells responded to the treatment.

The Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, Brain Tumour Research and Support across Yorkshire, Worldwide Cancer Research, the Brain Tumour Charity, the European Commission (FP7), and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council contributed to the funding of the study.

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