Two Oklahoma university professors have claimed significant success in the continuing fight to develop a drug that could target only cancerous cells.
Thomas Pento and Roger HarrisonTwo professors say they have developed a cancer-fighting protein that can stop the spread of certain cancerous cells without damaging healthy, normal cells. The new fusion protein can be helpful in fighting lung, prostate and pancreatic cancers without the damages that are caused by chemo and radiotherapy.
A fusion protein is the product of joining two genes or two proteins or peptides together. Fusion proteins can happen naturally or it can be created artificially in a laboratory for research purposes.
The newly developed protein by Thomas Pento and Roger Harrison can keep some types of cancer cells from ingesting a vital protein called methionine that doesn't affect normal body cells, which can remain healthy under the new treatment.
The new discovery also means that the treatment won't result in hair loss and sickness, the two main side effects of chemo and radiation therapies, which kill normal cells along with cancer cells.
Pinto explains, 'So you can see it would cause a lot less toxicity and it should really be a lot more effective.' The research began with breast cancer and expanded to include other types of solid tumors.
Although the fusion protein is helpful in treating many types of cancers, researchers say it works best against lung, prostate and pancreatic cancers.
Pento said the research started with breast cancer, and early experiments with the fusion protein proved successful. Realizing other types of cancer cells use the same special receptors for taking in methionine, the professors expanded their research to other types of solid tumors.
They found the fusion protein to be just as helpful in fighting lung, prostate and pancreatic cancers. The latter is especially encouraging, Pento said, because there is no cure for pancreatic cancer.
'It could be applicable to many types of cancer,' Pento said, 'but we've found that it's effective for those four types of cancer for sure.'
Despite successful testing to this point, don't expect the treatment to be available in the immediate future. Harrison said the fusion protein will need another round of animal tests before moving on to years of human clinical testing.
Three phases of clinical tests could take two years each.
'So it could be in the order of 10 years,' he said.
'It sounds so far away, but realistically, given the FDA and all the phases of testing, it could be done rapidly.'