Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Autumn Crocuses Provide Hope of Cancer Cure

Scientists at Bradford University are developing a drug which is capable of destroying the blood vessels that supply malignant tumours. This is a very hopeful pharmocological breakthrough in the treatment of cancer. Clinical trials will be carried out at St James' University Hospital, Leeds, so it can truly be said to be a Yorkshire contribution to progress in oncology. The research team is led by Professor Laurence Patterson, Director of the Bradford Institute for Cancer Therapeutics. The new drug will not have the awful toxicity of many of the drugs used currently to destroy cancer cells; most anti-cancer drugs attack healthy cells as well as malignant ones and therefore have devastating side effects which can often be more unpleasant than the symptoms of the disease itself. The researchers have so far carried out tests in mice on sarcoma and on lung, colon, breast and prostate cancer with very promising results and a marked lack of side effects. It is early days yet and this drug will not be generally available for a number of years. (Some reports are suggesting possibly 18 months, depending on how the trials go; other scientists are less optimistic and are talking of years as the laboratory trials are still at early stages and have only included studies on mice.) However this does seem to be one real breakthrough among others in the treatment of solid tumour cancers and the scientists carrying out the research seem to be optimistic that this is indeed a significant development in the whole range of treatments available for cancers. The drug is based on a substance called colchicine (normally highly poisonous) which is obtained from autumn crocuses.The colchicine is chemically 'capped' so that it can travel around the body without causing harm until it reaches a tumour; it is then 'uncapped' by the action of proteins  present around a tumour called matrix metalloproteases and it and destroys the blood vessels supplying the tumour so that the tumour withers and dies.   A walk through Thorp Perrow Arboretum last weekend provided ample evidence that we are indeed in the season for the autumn crocus, so this seems a particularly appropriate time for this interesting anouncement.

For further information and measured comment see Henry Scowcroft's article

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