Scientists have developed a whole new class of drugs that, for the first time, targets the structure of the cancer cell, paving way for new treatments to tackle the disease.
Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) demonstrated that the therapy is effective in two types of cancers in the animal model - neuroblastoma, a cancer that affects children, and melanoma, skin cancer.
"Our drug causes the structure of the cancer cell to collapse - and it happens relatively quickly. We've been surprised and excited by the potential of this treatment," said lead study author, Professor Peter Gunning, from UNSW Medicine.
The drug seems to be effective against every type of cancer cell.
The work could lead to an entirely new type of chemotherapy, which could have more positive outcomes for hard-to-treat cancers and have fewer long-term side effects for survivors.
"Attacking the architecture of the cancer cell has long been an obvious target, but until now, attempts have failed because the building blocks of the structure of the cancer cell are also used to build the heart and muscle, so the toxicity was unacceptable," said the first author on the paper, Dr Justine Stehn from the Oncology Research Unit, in the School of Medical Sciences.
But the team recognised there was a second "building block", the protein tropomyosin, in the cancer cell structure that was sufficiently different from those in the heart and muscle, which could be safely targeted.
The study was published in journal Cancer Research.