Hope for cancer victims as scientists develop drug that sends cells to sleep to stop them spreading
10:39 GMT, 24 November 2012
Cancers can be put to sleep to stop them multiplying, scientists have discovered.
A new drug called Aflibercept tricks tumours into becoming dormant by flipping molecular switches in the structure of the cancer so it cannot spread.
Positive results are being seen already in the UK, where trials have seen patients enjoy a 'significant' extension of life.
Scientific breakthrough: Bowel cancer patients in a new drug trial have experienced a 'significant' extension of life
More than 1,400 patients were involved in trials, with some participants with advanced bowel cancer who had already had chemotherapy prolonged life by two years.
Scientists think the drug could be used across a range of different cancers in future studies.
A report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology said Aflibercept had a 'statistically significant survival benefit' compared to conventional drug regimes treating bowel cancer that had spread after initial treatment.
Dr Rob Glynne Jones, Macmillan Clinical Lead for Gastrointestinal Cancer at Mount Vernon Hospital in Northwood, Middlesex, said: 'The trial results were positive.'
'Around 10,000 patients a year die from bowel cancer and most of them are having some form of chemotherapy so it is theoretically applicable to those. I am sure this drug will have a research programme and they will be extending it to all other cancers.
Maybe they will find other cancers where it may be more effective.'
Aflibercept is administered as a 30-minute infusion alongside chemotherapy. It is available in the US, and European approval is expected soon.
Availability in the UK will depend on NHS approval.