Cancer breakthrough gives new hope to patients

Researchers from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) have discovered that by blocking a protein called MCL-1 it will kill off cancer cells.

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Doctor Gemma Kelly, of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, said the findings were significant.

“We found if you disable a protein called MCL-1 then this led to a rapid death of lymphoma cells and they die quite quickly,” she said.

“In our pre-clinical trial models we saw a very rapid death in 24 to 72 hours of lymphoma cells.”

MCL-1 exists in all cells and helps them survive, but while cancer cells seem more sensitive to turning off the protein, healthy cells live on.

This is good for patients as it causes fewer side effects.

While the research is in its primary stage, scientists are optimistic that it will become available to the public after a number of clinical trials.

Dr Kelly said the research will bring some hope to those suffering with cancer since a large majority, up to 70 per cent of human cancers have MCL-1.

“We are very excited about this work,” Dr Kelly said.

She said the research team at WEHI have been working on the project for four years.

Thirty-six year old Heidi, who doesn’t want her last name published, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2007.

She was treated successfully with chemotherapy but relapsed and underwent a bone-marrow transplant.

She is now in remission and said any advance in treating cancer was welcome.

“If you can have no side effects, you can continue working, continue doing things with your family – it’s not as debilitating as other treatments like chemotherapy,” she said.

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