US scientists have discovered a compound that seemingly destroys the master cells thought to be responsible for the spread of cancer.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that salinomycin slowed tumour growth more effectively than existing drugs when tested in mice.
While the reasons for cancer resilience are currently unknown, experts believe a clue may lie in stem cells, which are resistant to conventional treatment and may be responsible for creating new tumours.
Salinomycin was 100 times better at killing the cells in a test tube, the study said.
But experts warned a human version could be years away.
Nevertheless, Dr John Stingl, group leader in mammary stem cell biology at Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute, said: “This is one of the biggest advances we have seen this year in this area of research. These scientists have demonstrated that it’s possible to selectively target the rare cancer stem cells that drive tumour growth.”
Copyright Press Association 2010
Massachusetts Institute of Technology