Certain researchers at Johns Hopkins have been focused on epigenetics as a way to do away with cancerous cells. By understanding the chemical switches that turn genes on or off, they have been able to develop new cancer treatments that are currently being studied in clinical trials. Now, researchers in the UK state that they have found a way to “flip the switch” in cancer cells to make them permanently dormant.
This research is being closely watched by thoracic surgeons who treat malignant pleural mesothelioma, a very aggressive form of cancer that is not easily treated with chemotherapy and radiation. Most mesothelioma patients die within one year of diagnosis, so doctors are eager for new, more effective treatments.
In an article appearing in the Daily Mail, researchers report that the drug aflibercept, which is used to treat bowel cancer, has proven to trick cancer cells into dormancy, leading to a significantly higher life expectancy for patients.
In a trial that included 1,400 bowel cancer patients, researchers reported a “statistically significant survival benefit” in patients treated with this drug, which is administered with another chemotherapy agent.
According to Dr. Rob Glynne Jones, MacMillan Clinical Lead for Gastrointestinal Cancer at Mount Vernon Hospital in Northwood, Middlesex, “The trial results were positive. I am sure this drug will have a research programme and they will be extending it to all other cancers.”
At this time, aflibercept is approved in the US to treat wet macular degeneration and metastatic colorectal cancer. It is expected to be approved in Europe soon.