It’s one of our most effective weapons against cancer but, sadly, chemotherapy doesn’t work for everyone.
New research from La Trobe University not only explains why, but also provides a potential solution in many common cases.
Cancer drug 5-FU is an important member of the chemotherapy family, used to fight a range of digestive, head, neck and breast tumours.
In some patients, however, cancer cells become immune.
That process was a mystery until La Trobe University’s Associate Professor Hamsa Puthalakath revealed its link to an obscure protein which helps cells proliferate.
When the protein is present in a patient’s body, 5-FU works, when it is absent, cancer cells become immune.
“In understanding the science behind chemotherapy resistance, we think that we have found cancer’s Achilles heel and this has significant implications for future drug development,” Associate Professor Puthalakath says.
His results could also be used to develop a lab test showing whether a patient will respond to existing treatments, reducing ineffective and therefore unnecessary chemotherapy.
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