A drug has been tested that could protect against radioactive fall-out from a “dirty bomb” attack or nuclear meltdown.
The drug, which blocks radiation damage to the body, also has the potential to make radiotherapy cancer treatments safer and more effective.
Known as CBLB592, it switches on a biological mechanism that helps healthy cells survive blasts of radiation.
But it does not appear to have the same effect on normal tumours, which remain vulnerable.
Radiation kills cells indirectly, by turning on a cell suicide programme called apoptosis. Its purpose is to wipe out cells with damaged DNA before they turn cancerous.
However in some cases resistant cancer cells are able to block apoptosis and withstand radiotherapy.
Now US scientists led by Dr Lyudmila Burdelya, from the Rosswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, want to see if apoptosis can be turned off in a controlled way to protect against radiation.
CBLB502 is a drug that inhibits the protein which kick-starts cell suicide at the genetic level.
Writing in the journal Science, the researchers concluded: “In summary, CBLB502 reduces radiation toxicity without diminishing the therapeutic anti-tumour effect of radiation and without promoting radiation-induced carcinogenicity.”
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