Potential new cancer fighting drug found by mistake

Researchers in the United States appear to have almost inadvertently stumbled across what could be a new cancer treatment.

Scientist Katherine L. Schaefer and her colleagues were initially rattled to discover that a batch of carefully cultured cells were dead but immediately they realised they were looking at what could be a another weapon to add to the cancer fighting arsenal.

They have found that a group of compounds called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma, or PPARgamma inhibitors might have the ability to fight colorectal cancer and cancers of the esophagus, liver and skin.

Tests already carried out in mice suggests the compound helps break down the cell walls of tumours which have learned how to evade existing drugs.

In an even more exciting development the latest studies suggest that PPARgamma inhibitors act through some of the same mechanisms as the blockbuster chemotherapy Taxol, but with important differences.

Lead author Schaefer of the University of Rochester Medical Center, says this is the first observation of a small molecule dramatically reducing levels of the proteins called tubulins, the building blocks of cancer cell skeletons.

Schaefer says because cells that line the colon are similar to those in the liver, esophagus and skin, the discovery represents a potentially new way of treating such cancers.

The original intention of the research was in fact to find drugs to treat the inflammation seen in Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis which cause pain and diarrhea.

It seems that normal healthy human cells are difficult to grow and study in the lab, because they have a tendency to die, cancer cells live much longer and are harder to kill, which is why scientists often use them.

The research is published in the journal International Cancer Research.

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