Australian researchers approach cure for rare form of cancer



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"This combination therapy completely changed the treatment scenario for this disease," said Professor Dawson.

Earlier this month at a meeting of the American Society of Hematology in San Diego, Professor Dawson and his colleagues will announce the success of a cancer cell study in the lab that suggests adding an extra drug to the combination. close to 100 percent.

About 300 cases of mantle cell lymphoma are diagnosed in Australia every year. A genetic mutation causes the body to produce cancerous white blood cells – the cells that normally fight the infection.

Because of cancer, the cells are no longer able to defend the body. It kills most people diagnosed within four years; Chemotherapy is often prescribed, but it almost never works.

In April, after 30 years of research, researchers Peter MacCallum and Royal Melbourne Hospital announced that a new combination drug therapy has placed cancer in about 70% of patients in complete remission in two large clinical trials.

"This was unprecedented, this level of success has never been seen for this type of cancer," said Dawson.

"But it still left us wondering – what about those 30% of the patients who did not get a good response, or did they respond for a short time and then fell back? Could we find out why they were not getting the same answer? "

Entrepreneur Hamish Petrie is among the 30 percent. He had the combination therapy – which is not subsidized by the government and costs about $ 20,000 a month out of a clinical trial, he said – that has almost completely eliminated the cancer.

But while celebrating this success, he received a phone call. His cancer had resistance-linked DNA markers. It was only a matter of time before he returned.

Petrie was among the 30% of patients whose cancer did not respond to the first form of combination therapy with drugs.

Petrie was among the 30% of patients whose cancer did not respond to the first form of combination therapy with drugs.Credit:Chris Hopkins

At Peter MacCallum, Professor Dawson conducted the DNA profiles of the patients involved in one of the successful clinical trials.

All the people who did not respond to the treatment seemed to share the same DNA mutation, she noted, one that allowed the cancer to produce a protein that gave it resistance to drugs.

She found that adding another drug that suppressed the protein to combination therapy meant that the cancer-resistant cells were eliminated.

If the method works in humans – clinical trials begin next year – mantle cell lymphoma can be a significant step in healing.

This judgment is great news, because it means people may not have to suffer what he went through, Petrie says.

He received a bone marrow transplant, an intensive last minute treatment option – but remarkably seems to have cured him.

If he had not done the transplant, "by now I'd be falling," he said.

"This new therapy is extremely important. This disease is one that keeps coming back to you. I believe this discovery will eventually see the end of chemotherapy as a standard treatment for this condition – this new therapy will become the norm.

"I am extremely optimistic about the future for this."

Liam is a science reporter for Fairfax Media

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