Cancer Research scientists at the University of Southampton have discovered a new molecule in cancerous cells. In finding this, researchers have learnt that cancerous cells can be prevented from growing, when starved of oxygen.
Dr Ali Tovassoli, a researcher at the university explains that this discovery shows great promise:
We’ve found a way to target the steps that cancer cells take to survive and we hope that our research will one day lead to effective drugs that can stop cancers adapting to a low oxygen environment, stopping their growth. The next step is to further develop this molecule to create an effective treatment.
The molecule can still adapt to low oxygen levels by targeting HIF-1, a switchboard that activates other genes that help the growth of cancer. This consequently leads to the development of new blood vessels around a tumour, allowing cancerous cells to spread.
There are no specific drugs that are able to treat this as of yet, however Dr Julie Sharp, senior information manager for Cancer Research, highlights the importance of this step towards ceasing cancer:
For the first time our scientists have found a way to block a master switch controlling cells response to low levels of oxygen – an important step towards creating drugs that could halt cancer in its tracks.