Australian scientists have discovered that an existing drug utilized to deal with osteoporosis could be repurposed for cancer prevention and cure women that are at high risk of breast cancer, according to a new research study.
Scientists from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research discovered that the medication denosumab can target a group of breast tissue cells that are much more prone to become cancerous in women who carry the faulty BRCA1 gene and avoid breast cancer development altogether. The study was released today in Nature Medicine.
“What our findings indicate or offer is a promising new strategy to prevent or delay breast cancers arising in women that carry a faulty BRCA1 gene,” Professor Jane Visvader, breast cancer expert and one of the lead researchers of the study, tells SBS.
“We’re very encouraged by these findings,” she says.
The researchers utilized breast cells samples given away by females carrying the defective BRCA1 gene to identify a specific group of cells– they were very proliferative, meaning they were dividing more than regularly, and also collected genetic errors – that were primed to end up being cancerous.
They additionally found that these cells presented a protein marker called RANK and also discovered that by blocking its actions with denosumab, they might postpone or stop them from developing into cancerous cells.
“Now interestingly, we were able to target this molecule using an existing drug and we found that by targeting or blocking this molecule, we could switch off the proliferation of these rogue cells and even prevent or delay breast cancer development in pre-clinical laboratory models,” says Prof Visvader.
Although denosumab is not presently authorized for breast cancer avoidance, the scientists have actually defined it as the ‘holy grail’ for their field as it provides the chance to ‘turn off’ these cells before they could even become cancer.
The research is substantial because it suggests denosumab, which has a relatively low side effect profile compared to other cancer drugs, could be used as a non-surgical choice to prevent hostile breast cancer as a result of the defective BRCA1.
Current prevention methods for ladies carriers of the BRCA1 genetics mutation commonly includes the removal of breast cells, or a prophylactic mastectomy, paired with the removal of the ovaries.
Prof Sanchia Aranda, CEO of Cancer Council Australia, states the findings for are exciting due to the fact that the availability of a new non-invasive strategy inevitably gives women an additional prevention alternative.
“This is an important study because it identifies a potential blockable mechanism for the way that cancer develops in women with BRCA1 mutation,” Prof Aranda tells SBS.
“The great thing about this study is that not only have they identified the potential mechanism, but because there’s a drug already existing it’s a very short timeline to potential clinical application as in the trials can start now.”
This suggests that researchers could skip the drug development stage entirely and focus on setting up clinical tests to monitor females with the BRCA1 mutation and the impacts of denosumab over a variety of years.
“What’s important about this is that it is linking a biological process with a readily available drug and hopefully that will shorten the pathway to having another treatment that women with BRCA1 mutations can consider in looking at reducing their cancer risk,” says Prof Aranda.
Prof Vidvader explains that although a tiny pilot research study was currently showing promising results, the next step will be to start a global scientific test and also track the effectiveness of denosumab in breast cancer prevention over a longer period.
“Even if it doesn’t totally prevent breast cancer, I hope that it will delay the decision for these younger women before they have to undergo a mastectomy and ovariectomy,” she says.