Treatment advance for drug-resistant diseases

A new weapon has been developed in the war against drug-resistant diseases and it promises to result in more effective treatments for many of the most intractable illnesses, ranging from superbug infections to tuberculosis and cancer.

US researchers believe they have found a way to overcome the drug resistance that is frequently seen in ovarian cancer patients given the drug Taxol – a chemotherapy agent that becomes less effective over time. The breakthrough could have wider implications for the many other illnesses where drug resistance is a problem, such as multiply-resistant strains of staphylococcus that result in hospital-acquired infections.

The study focussed on a way of boosting Taxol levels within ovarian cancer cells by combating the cell's natural mechanism of expelling the drug from within its outer membrane, which is one way drug-resistance can develop. "Taxol works pretty well in the beginning – 70 or 80 per cent of patients have a response – but it fails in the end because drug resistance develops," said Nelson Teng, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Stanford University in California.

"Overcoming Taxol resistance is big, it's huge," he added. "In essence, the technology can be used to overcome one of the most challenging types of problems of drug resistance. This could potentially be used with any drug which is effective but has a delivery problem, not just Taxol."

Taxol resistance develops because cancer cells become sensitised to the medication. That happens as a result of the proliferation of pumps on the cell membrane, which normally eject foreign material from within the cell but also work on keeping Taxol levels low.

"It is kind of like a bouncer. If you are not recognised as being part of the club, then you are kicked out," added Paul Wender, a chemistry professor at Stanford who led the research team.

Taxol-resistant cancer cells produce a lot more pumps than non-resistant cells. That allows them to proliferate in such a way that a cancer can spread. The scientists circumvented the problem by giving Taxol better powers of penetrating the cell membrane.

"If we think of the pump as being a bouncer for the cellular club, effectively what we are doing is disguising one of these therapeutic agents to get it in through the back door or the side door. We are not even going to deal with the bouncer," Professor Wender said.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences, found that surrounding the Taxol molecule with the amino-acid arginine, which occurs naturally in the body, increased the ability of the drug to both enter and keep inside the cell.

"Nature has developed all of this firepower for getting things into cells, and one of the ways is to create entities that are arginine-rich," said Professor Wender. "Arginine-rich sequences appear to figure in the mechanism by which many pathogens invade cells. It is an exciting result to be able to take a drug known to work against cancer, but stymied by resistant cells, and restore it to effectiveness using an arginine transporter. This bodes well for use with other drugs that succumb to resistance."

Arginine-rich Taxol was tested on mice injected with human ovarian cancer cells. Further tests are needed before it can be tested in clinical trials on humans.

Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

    Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

    Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

    Day In a Page

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect