A drug that reduces the level of copper in the blood of cancer patients reduces the growth of tumours in animals. Wilson's disease is a rare disorder where patients have excess of the trace element copper in their bodies. Researchers at the University of Texas, through research on Wilson's disease, have discovered a compound, known as tetrathiomolybdate (TM) that could fight cancer by lowering copper levels.
Researchers found that copper plays a previously unexpected role in promoting blood supply - angiogenesis - to a tumour. Much other research is currently directed toward the discovery of anti-angiogenesis compounds. The team have found that TM suppressed the growth of tumours in mice that had been implanted with cells from an aggressive form of human breast cancer.
The compound also kept new blood cells from forming in cancer-prone cultures of rat artery cells and prevented tumour formation in mice specially bred to develop breast cancer. The findings suggest that anti-angiogenesis can be achieved by reducing copper levels - a previously unknown approach to controlling tumours.