Scientists create drug
that prevents breast cancer
A drug that could prevent thousands of young women
developing breast cancer has been created by scientists.
If given regularly to those with a strong family history of
the cancer, researchers say it could effectively "vaccinate"
them against a disease they are almost certain to develop.
The drug, which attacks tumours caused by genetic flaws,
could spare those who have the rogue genes the trauma of having
their breasts removed.
Currently, a high proportion of women told they have
inherited the rogue genes choose to have a mastectomy as a
Researchers hope such a "vaccine" will be available within a
decade. Flawed BRCA genes, which are passed from mother to
daughter, are responsible for around 2,000 of the 44,000 cases
of breast cancer each year in the UK.
Women with the rogue genes have an 85 per cent chance of
developing the disease - eight times that of the average
Initial tests suggest that the drug, known only as AGO14699,
could also be free of the side-effects associated with other
cancer treatments, including pain, nausea and hair loss.
The drug, which is being tested on patients in Newcastle
upon Tyne, works by exploiting the "Achilles' heel" of
hereditary forms of breast cancer - which is its limited
ability to repair damage to its DNA.
Normal cells have two ways of fixing themselves, allowing
them to grow and replicate, but cells in BRCA tumours have only
The drug, which is part of the class of anti-cancer
medicines called PARP inhibitors, blocks this mechanism and
stops the tumour cells from multiplying.
The researchers say the drug could also be used against
other forms of cancer, including prostate and pancreatic,
although further tests are needed.
Researcher Dr Ruth Plummer, senior lecturer in medical
oncology at Newcastle University, said: "The implications for
women and their families are huge because if you have the gene,
there is a 50 per cent risk you will pass it on to your
children. You are carrying a time bomb."