'Carrier' molecule can target tumours

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The Independent Online
SCIENTISTS have developed a more precise method of targeting tumours with anti-cancer drugs, which they say should improve treatment of the most resistant forms of the disease - including breast and lung, writes Liz Hunt.

Patients are injected with a 'carrier' molecule - made of a substance similar to that used in disposable contact lenses - which has drug particles attached to it. The molecule is 'swallowed' by the tumour and delivers the drug directly to the cancerous cells.

According to Dr David Secher, director of drug development at the Cancer Research Campaign, the delivery system works on the 'space shuttle principle'. Once the polymer booster has done its job, it falls away and is eventually eliminated from the body.

The method would also reduce the toxic side-effects of some drugs. 'Laboratory research has shown that because the drug can be accurately targeted and is mostly released only when inside the cancerous cells, harmful side-effects, which include heart damage, may be significantly reduced,' Dr Secher said.

The new system was pioneered by scientists at the Beatson Institute, Glasgow, and at Keele University. The first cancer patients are being recruited to a clinical trial of the polymer-drug combination. Those with large, solid tumours that develop resistance to drugs are the most suitable candidates.

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