Molecule that helps kill kidney cancer cells identified

July 8th, 2008 - 12:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 8 (IANS) A new molecule identified by researchers will help kill kidney cancer cells and eliminate the necessity of removing the organ to save the patient. Stanford University medical researchers said a drug created from this molecule would help fight the threatening disease while leaving the patients’ kidneys intact.

“You now have a potential means of going after a disease that’s been difficult to treat,” said Amato Giaccia, professor and director of radiation oncology.

Giaccia said his lab focused on renal cell carcinoma or kidney cancer, because there is no known cure for it short of removing a damaged kidney from a patient’s body.

“There is no effective chemotherapy to treat renal cell carcinoma,” said Giaccia, also a researcher at the Stanford Cancer Centre. “Patients still succumb.”

This year nearly 54,400 people in the US alone will be diagnosed with kidney cancer and about 13,000 will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

Radiotherapy, a powerful weapon used to fight cancer, has also proven to be ineffective in killing kidney cancer, in contrast to other types of cancer, Giaccia said. Clinical trials could begin “in the next couple years,” he added.

This new research could lead to a treatment to save patients from losing one of their two kidneys. The organs are responsible for filtering blood, controlling blood pressure and preventing anaemia, among other tasks.

Giaccia’s work focuses on the von Hippel-Lindau tumour suppressor gene, or VHL gene, which normally slows tumour growth in humans but does not work in 75 percent of kidney tumour cells.

Giaccia’s team searched for a small molecule that would kill cancer cells when this VHL gene is broken. They found their weapon in a molecule called STF-62247.

While STF-62247 is toxic to kidney cancer, it is generally harmless to most other cells in the human body, as they carry a working VHL gene, Giaccia said.

Stanford co-author and postdoctoral fellow Denise A. Chan said she believed the new findings could affect how all types of cancer are treated in the future.

The findings of the study have been published in the latest issue of the journal Cancer Cell.

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