Thanks to advancement made possible through the Human Genome Project, British researchers believe the world’s first cancer-killing pill may be on the horizon. According to the team’s timeline, such a pill may be available in as few as ten years.
The success of this future pill will work by exploiting a specific gene flaw that is present in cancer’s DNA. In lab tests, the British team was able to show that a mutation of specific cancer cells effectively blocked the disease’s ability to repair damaged genetic material. As such, a pill or injection could potentially be made that switches on this mutation and shuts down important repair mechanisms that cause the illness to grow uncontrollably.
Since such a drug would not affect the health of normal human cells, it is believed that treatment will not only be more effective, but also result in far fewer side effects.
A research team led by Professor Ghulam Mufti at Kings College London announced the findings on October 24th. Mufti summed up the findings by saying, “The genetics of cancers are being rapidly unraveled. We are soon going to have a library of what genetic abnormalities lead to which cancers. If these are specific, we can target these abnormalities using new treatments.”
Many researchers not affiliated with the study agree that all cancers are moving towards a targeted treatment process. Thanks in large part to the Human Genome Project, various research teams are now identifying potential genetic markers that may eventually lead to a cure for cancer.
One of the first of such drugs is currently being tested at the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre in London. This drug works in exactly the same manner as described by Mulfti – by altering a tumor’s cells so they cannot successfully repair DNA properly.
In early trials, the research team was able to show that breast cancer cells are killed while healthy cells are largely unaffected. The team also notes a complete lack of noticeable side effects.
Similar methods are also currently in the works for curing such illnesses as cystic fibrosis. Current medical trials that utilize gene therapy could lead to an effective cystic fibrosis treatment in as little as five years.