New drug tests offer cancer hope.
he compound, codenamed 0N0190, inhibits an enzyme which plays a vital role in driving cell division.
Although research is at an early stage, scientists believe the drug shows promise and could be used to tackle resistant, fast-spreading cancers.
In mice, it proved highly effective at killing and preventing the growth of tumours, and was also shown to have few side-effects.
A small group of up to 56 patients with advanced, spreading cancers are now taking part in the first clinical trial of the drug.
At this stage doctors will be assessing how safe the compound is rather than its ability to combat disease.
The target of the drug is Plk-1 (polo-like kinase1), a protein that acts as a catalyst in cell division.
High levels of Plk-1 have been seen in many human tumours and laboratory studies have shown that inhibiting the enzyme leads to cancer cell death.
The research is being led by Prof Premkumar Reddy, from Temple University School of Medi- cine in Philadelphia, US.
Prof Reddy's team examined the effects of 0N01910 on tumour growth in several animal experiments.
They found the drug arrested cell division in a variety of human cancer cells grown in mice, including those notoriously resistant to traditional chemotherapy.
It had a significant impact on 94 different tumours, including those affecting the liver, breast and pancreas.
In many cases, combining 0N01910 with other chemotherapy agents enhanced its action.
At the same time it appeared not to damage healthy cells.