An exciting basic discovery in cancer research was communicated yesterday - including in an online story at the BBC: Olaparib is the first successful example of a new type of personalised medicine using a technique called "synthetic lethality" - a subtle way of exploiting the body's own molecular weaknesses for positive effect. In this case the drug takes advantage of the fact that while normal cells have several different ways of repairing damage to their DNA, one of these pathways is disabled by the BRCA mutations in tumour cells. Olaparib blocks one of the repair pathways by shutting down a key enzyme called PARP.
Robert Bazell at NBC says: "All this enthusiasm is based on a small report published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. It focuses on one clinical trial in its earliest stage in 60 patients with breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. Some — but not all — of the patients whose cancers seemed hopeless saw them shrink drastically or disappear. Many avoided the typical side effects — nausea, hair loss — associated with cancer treatment."
Advances on many cancer fronts are coming fast and furiously, so much so it is hard to keep up with them. This is great for patients who are trying to directly treat their cancers without harming themselves while trying.
Thanks to createmotions for the image.