Researchers have developed a new drug that can protect healthy cells and bone marrow against anti-cancer radiation therapy and maybe even against the effects of a nuclear bomb, a study showed Thursday.
While radiation therapy is used effectively to destroy cancerous tumors, it can have a devastating effect on healthy cells, noted the study published in the April 11 edition of the American review Science.
But a new drug protects gastrointestinal cells and bone marrow in mice and monkeys from radiation without reducing the treatment's effectiveness, lead author Lyudmila Burdelya of New York state's Roswell Park Cancer Institute said.
Dr Richard Kolesnick, of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said the research represented "a breakthrough in an issue that has challenged the scientific community."
Dr Preet Chaudhary, an oncologist at the University of Pennsylvania, said the work could have wide implications for the fight against cancer.
The drug, CBLB502, works by activating a well-known molecular pathway that some cancer cells use to stave off cell death, Burdelya and colleagues said.
A single dose given to the animals shortly before receiving radiation therapy significantly reduced the radiation damage caused to bone marrow and gastrointestinal cells and prolonged the animals' survival, the researchers said.
They said the drug might also be a useful protection against radiation exposure from a nuclear plant malfunction or nuclear bomb, adding that clinical trials on humans could begin this summer.