A drug, called STA-4783, has been developed to kill cancer cells. Unlike current treatments, the drug has very few side-effects, and those who have started taking the drug have already doubled their life expectancy, with researchers believing that survival rates could be even higher.
"This is the most exciting cancer treatment I've seen in 10 years," Daily Express quoted cancer specialist Dr Tony Williams of Synta Pharmaceuticals, who is developing the drug, as saying.
AdvertisementSTA-4783 works by increasing the amount of free radicals in the body and healthy cells can control these damaging molecules. Cancer cells can't, and react by destroying themselves.
"Giving this drug to cancer cells pushes them over the critical threshold. It's like speeding up a banged-up car being driven round at 95 mph. After a while the engine blows. Normal cells are like a well maintained quality car driven within the speed limit which can easily handle something which throws it off course. The older generation of cancer drugs were so toxic some probably did as much damage as they did good. These drugs are much safer. This is a great step forward and will give new hope to patients," Williams said.
The drug is the first treatment to improve survival rates for patients with late-stage melanoma (skin cancer).
The first trial involved eighty-one patients and those on STA-4783 have survived twice as long as those on old therapies.
Scientists are now looking forward to use the drug to treat ovarian cancer and leukaemia.
Later this year, more trials are to be launched at 150 leading cancer centres across the world, including 11 hospitals in Britain.
And if the outcomes of the trials are as good as the first test, STA-4783 could be available within three years.