Experimental studies on mice with a drug called AZD2171 which reduced the size and number of polyps in mice have led to the hope that it could someday soon be used in humans with bowel cancer.
The findings by Cancer Research UK have been published in the journal Carcinogenesis, and Dr.Robert Goodlad, leader of the research team hopes that they could be used as the basis for a drug to treat polyps in humans thus preventing tumours.
Nearly 950,000 cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed worldwide each year. The disease kills about 490,000 people annually and is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in developed countries. The cancer develops mostly from pre-cancerous growths called polyps which grow on the bowel walls.
Polyps are very commomly found in people over 50. Around 5-10% of them progress into cancer. A bowel cancer screening program for people between 60 and 69 is being started and will be offered once in 2 years in the UK.
AZD2171 developed by Astra Zeneca acts by cutting off the blood supply to the polyps ,thereby restricting their growth. The drug interferes with the vascular endothilial growth factor (VEGF) which spurs on the growth of new blood vessels. A similar drug Avastin has already been launched.
Clinical studies in people with advanced bowel cancer have shown that the drug is well tolerated and does not have serious side effects.
Large scale trials have to be conducted to develop a drug which will be effective in humans. But the findings have shown definite therapeutic effect and Dr.Lesley Walker,director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK feels that they are very promising for the future.