Dana Farber has a new cancer treatment in the works, and it looks like it could be a doozy. I doubt the studies will come soon enough to help me, but there is hope that the treatment could be around for my younger family members and their friends, if the time comes that they might need it.
This treatment involves what are called PARP inhibitors, which previously seemed to be effective only for a rather limited number of people with breast and ovarian cancer - those who lacked functioning BRCA1 and BRCA2 proteins. These BRCA proteins help to repair DNA damage to cells, but seem to be particularly effective in repairing DNA damage to cancer cells, which means that the cancer cells are able to quickly find ways to protect themselves from damage, and to continue growing. Which is why treatments tend to stop working after a period of time.
PARP inhibitors prevent less serious DNA damage to cancer cells, which in combination with lack of functioning BRCA proteins, leaves those cells more susceptible to being killed off by treatments such as radiation and chemo.
Another protein, CDK1, regulates cell growth and is overactive in many types of cancers. Dana Farber's recent studies indicate that CDK1 is a necessary activator for BRCA1, and that a CDK1 inhibitor can be used to disable what would otherwise be working BRCA1 proteins, making the PARP inhibitor functional for a larger number of cancers.
Not only does it look as though this combo of PARP and CDK1 inhibitors might be very effective for at least some people, but it also seems to be non-toxic, as it only affects cancer cells, and largely leaves normal cells alone. Welcome news for those of us on toxic treatments; we hardly need to add more poison to what we are already taking on.
This seems like a very exciting development to me. If you are interested in getting a more in-depth (and probably more clear) understanding of this potential treatment, you can find a good article about it - and links to even more pertinent information - here.