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New drug to enhance cancer treatment

April 29, 2016

A new drug, developed by Woodside Professor Ruth Ganss and her team from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, could be used to repair blood vessel defects and allow for more targeted and effective cancer treatment delivery.

Current treatments like chemotherapy and immunotherapy can struggle to enter a tumour because the blood vessels that fuel it have become malformed. Tumours require a lot of nutrients; therefore, causing the blood vessels to re-direct towards it. This may in turn lead to abnormalities in blood vessels.

Professor Ganss and her team discovered that smooth muscle cells that line blood vessels to give them shape and help them pump blood often break down in tumours. Once the smooth muscle cells break down, the blood vessel becomes leaky, reducing blood flow and preventing therapeutic from travelling into the tumour.

Professor Ruth Ganss at Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research

Professor Ganss said the new drug works by repairing the smooth muscle cells and returning normal blood flow to the vessels, allowing anti-cancer drugs to reach the tumour’s core.

“To achieve greater absorption of anti-cancer drugs, the blood vessels are really key,” Professor Ganss said.

Helping stem the spread of cancer

Professor Ganss said the defect in smooth muscle cells lining blood vessels in cancer could be a catalyst for the cancer to spread.

“It could be that once the smooth muscle cells break down and the blood vessels become leaky, cancer cells are able to slip out of the tumours and migrate through the blood stream to spread to different parts of the body.”

“We are currently investigating whether our drug could help stem the spread of cancer in a patient by repairing the leaky blood vessels.”

The research has been published in the journal Cell Reports.

The original news post was published on the Harry Perkins website.

Image of Professor Ganss courtesy of Harry Perkins.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation has supported Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research by providing two grants, totalling AUD 3.6million, towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology.

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