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Cancer treatment hope

11th February 2008

A study by the Institute of Cancer Research has found a "genetic mechanism" which can cause breast and ovarian cancer to resist treatment.

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Some cancers develop due to the "faulty" BRCA2 gene. This gene leaves cells without the ability to fix DNA and causes them to become cancerous.

The research was published in the journal Nature. The discoveries could lead to ways of identifying "which patients might benefit most from treatment, and stop drugs from losing their effectiveness."

Targeting cancer is difficult, as often cancerous tumours develop a resistance to treatment.
Certain drugs, such as PARP inhibitors, have been found to target BCRA2 cells in laboratory trials.

These drugs act in a damaging way to the DNA and kill cancer cells. Further trials are going ahead, however the most recent research demonstrated that some cells could revert back to their BCRA2 state and remain resistant to treatment.

Figures for 2004 showed that more than 250,000 people were diagnosed with cancer in the UK. One out of every four deaths in the country is due to cancer.

Professor Alan Ashworth, director of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre, said: "Drug resistance is a problem common to all types of cancer, yet this important process is poorly understood."

"By understanding this process, we can alter patient treatment to counter the problem of resistance."




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