Scientists begin quest over incurable cancer

RESEARCHERS in Yorkshire are beginning a new study they hope could deliver a treatment for an incurable cancer.

The blood cancer multiple myeloma affects around 4,000 new patients each year but their prognosis is poor with an average survival of between three and five years.

Scientists at Leeds University plan to build on a discovery in the United States that found that even a modest reduction in levels of a protein known as IRF4 in cancerous multiple myeloma plasma cells led to their death but left healthy blood cells unaffected.

They believe the discovery could open a therapeutic window for sufferers.

In research funded by the charity Yorkshire Cancer Research, the group will test the strategy in the laboratory on isolated multiple myeloma cells before developing a potential anti-myeloma drug.

They plan to insert a genetically-engineered virus into the cancer cells to deliver molecules that will trigger a reduction in protein levels.

Further research will look at improving the targeting of the cancer cells using the virus which it is hoped will lead to new drug treatments.

Molecular biologist Joan Boyes, a member of the research team, said the condition was a "dreadful disease".

"Many current treatments do not efficiently kill the cancerous cells that are buried deep within the bone marrow," she said.

"This piece of research is very exciting and if all goes to plan it could eventually go through to future clinical trials as it has potential to increase remission times in multiple myeloma cancer patients quite remarkably."