A new non-toxic treatment that seems to have broad anti-cancer potential has been developed by researchers at the University of Missouri.
The treatment effectively reduces breast cancer cells, by combining a small molecular drug that targets tumour cells with an antibody that causes selective shutdown of tumour blood vessels.
In half of breast cancer cases, a mutated protein, known as p53, is present.
Previous study has indicated that when p53 is functionally abnormal, tumour cells are prolific and develop quickly.
PRIMA-1, a small molecular drug, targets and returns normal function to the mutated p53, but PRIMA-1 alone is not enough to stop tumour growth.
Proliferating blood vessels supply oxygen and other nutrients that the tumour needs to grow.
However, a specific antibody, 2aG4, has the ability to destroy these blood vessels and prevent future growth.
According to researchers, no one has previously tried to attack tumour cells by targeting mutated p53 and the tumour-associated blood vessels with this combination of PRIMA-1 and 2aG4.
"Tumours are entities that want to live," said Salman Hyder, professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center.
"They adapt under conditions that would cause anything else to die. In order to effectively treat tumours, treatments must attack the breast tumour cells and the blood vessels that supply nutrients to the tumour. Treatment strategies in our study that targeted both areas resulted in improved and more potent responses," he added.
In the pre-clinical trials, mice bearing tumours of human origin were given the drug combination to combat tumour growth.
After four weeks of treatment, researchers found that the mice that were given the combination experienced a dramatic reduction in the development of tumours and had better results than the mice that were given only one of the compounds.
Also, the treatment combination proved to be non-toxic as the mice maintained their body weight and displayed few side effects.
"Mutated p53 in tumour cells plays a key role in promoting tumour cell survival and tumour cell resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs. The mutated protein is found in 50 percent of breast cancer cases," Hyder said.
"The results of this study are very promising and show the possibility of broad anti-cancer potential," he added.