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Scotland: P53 Trials Within Five Years

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http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/he ... 4049128.jp

Excerpt from ARTICLE:

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THE lives of half of all cancer victims could be saved or prolonged as a result of clinical trials set to start within five years, Scotland's leading researcher in the field revealed last night.

Professor Sir David Lane said work on his earlier discoveries into the link between genes and cancer had reached the stage where drug trials in humans were likely to begin in "four to five years".

Lane, in his first interview since returning to Scotland from a three-year post in Singapore, predicted that if the trials were successful up to 7,000 Scottish cancer sufferers annually could be saved, 10 times as many in the UK and millions across the world.

Lane, who is based at Dundee University, is revered in scientific circles for his discovery of the p53 gene and work on how it helps prevent cancer by "switching off" the damaged cells that can cause tumours.

Speaking exclusively to Scotland on Sunday, he revealed that his own groundbreaking experiments, as well as research by other scientists across the world, had reached a "very exciting" stage.

Many tumours begin when p53 is prevented from doing its vital anti-cancer work by other chemicals in the body. According to Lane, a molecule has been created which allows p53 to carry on fighting the disease. The molecule, Nutlin 3, works by blocking a protein called MDM2 which itself can inhibit p53.

Theoretically, a drug containing Nutlin 3 could be used to help treat virtually all types of cancer, including lung, leukaemia, breast and colon. Approximately half of all cancers involve the p53 gene being blocked by MDM2.

Lane said: "There are things coming to clinical trial soon and that's very exciting. I expect in the next four or five years there will be clinical trials of drugs that work by turning on p53. It's very clear that it's getting very close now and that's a big excitement."

He added: "The thing we would start with would be trials of leukaemia because it's easier to monitor how drugs are working there by taking tumour cells from the blood and seeing if they are being damaged."

Lane predicted: "Cancer will become more and more a treatable disease where the expected outcome is a successful treatment. We are getting towards that already with breast cancer. It's a combination of early detection, trials, and treatments.

"The difference I feel now is that it feels like we are really on the right track. You can feel the progress. There were times 20 years ago when there weren't drugs coming though and this was such a difficult disease to treat. Now we know we are doing the right things. That's not to be complacent because with the ageing population cancer is going to be a major disease but I am really optimistic about what we are doing."

Lane called on the scientific community to work together. "There are a lot of hurdles and the costs go up enormously, hundreds of millions to do full clinical approval, so it's a long staircase," he said. "In the end it's not just one person that gets it there, it's a combination of the scientists, the clinicians, the patients and the public who fund it."

Lane discovered the importance of p53 – since dubbed the 'tumour suppressor gene' or the 'guardian of the genome' – in 1979.

It is hoped that new treatments based on p53 will be more effective and less toxic than traditional therapies such as chemotherapy.

Although cancer deaths are falling in Scotland, the disease remains the nation's biggest killer, claiming 15,000 lives in 2006.

Dr Karen Vousden, director of the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow, said: "There are very few types of cancer that would not be helped by this. It could benefit up to 50% of all cancer cases.

"Potentially this could have an enormous impact. There are still hurdles to overcome. But you can't help but be excited by this."

Andrea Stiglianou, coordinator of the Leukaemia Society, said: "Anything that leads towards better treatments and enables people to lead better quality lives is really gladly welcomed. Sadly, we are still losing patients, so this is welcomed 100%."

Lane has returned to Dundee after three years at Singapore's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology.

He will now spend most of his time at his research base in Dundee University as well as taking a strategic role with Cancer Research UK, steering its research and investment.

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(ScotmanonSunday, Scotman.com, By Kate Foster, May 4, 2008)


The information contained in these articles may or may not be in agreement with my own opinions. They are not posted as medical advice of any kind.

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