Scottish breast cancer drug discovery offers new treatment hope

A new breast cancer treatment which destroys tumours more effectively than existing medicines could be on the horizon, according to a 'promising' study.

Monday, 23rd May 2016, 4:54 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th May 2016, 10:07 am
Scientists have identified a chemical compound that is highly effective at blocking the growth of breast cancer cells in the laboratory.

Edinburgh University scientists have pinpointed a chemical compound called eCF506 that is highly effective at blocking the growth of breast cancer cells in the laboratory.

The compound targets a molecule called Src tyrosine kinase, which is vital for the growth and spread of breast cancer cells.

Drugs that target the same molecule are already being tested in clinical trials but researchers claim this compound could be more effective and produce fewer side effects as it is more selective in the molecules it targets.

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Dr Asier Unciti-Broceta, who led the study at the Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre, said: “eCF506 is the first drug candidate of a second generation of Src inhibitors that will not only help to understand the complexity of some cancers but also the development of safer combination therapies.”

More than 1,000 people die from breast cancer in Scotland every year.

The team used a pioneering approach for the study where they tested the candidate drug on human breast cancer cells, rather than lab-created proteins, which allowed them to visualise the effects of the drugs more efficiently.

It is hoped this technique could provide a quicker and cheaper way of discovering new medicines.

Professor Neil Carragher, head of the Edinburgh Cancer Discovery Unit, who co-led the study published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, said: “This candidate drug will need to undergo further preclinical testing before it can be taken forward into clinical trials but these early findings are very promising.

“This approach is also very exciting as the cancers are telling us how to design the drugs.”

Mary Allison, Scotland Director of Breast Cancer Now, said: “Targeting some proteins involved in cancer with drugs has traditionally been a challenge, as these drugs might also have unintended consequences on normal cells as well as cancer cells.

“New methods of drug design like this research might help overcome some of these hurdles, so these early findings are a positive step forward.”