New pill-based drug could prevent and treat cancer

In collaboration with the Press Association

A new anti-cancer therapy that blocks the growth of blood vessels required for tumour growth has achieved promising results in mice, US scientists have revealed.

Lodamin works by preventing tumours from forming or re-growing by blocking the growth of blood vessels (angiogenesis) needed to feed them.

Experts at Children's Hospital Boston say that the drug, which can be taken orally, is non-toxic and has the potential to prevent cancer in high-risk patients, as well as to block the growth of tumours in patients who have already been diagnosed with cancer.

Writing in the journal Nature Biotechnology, the scientists describe how they developed Lodamin from a drug developed nearly two decades ago called TNP-470 which, while effective against a wide range of cancers, caused serious unpleasant side-effects and had to be administered via an injection.

Dr Donald Ingber, who originally developed TNP-470 and is now co-interim director of the hospital's Vascular Biology Programme, revealed that despite the problems with TNP-470, its success in phase I and II trials "opened up anti-angiogenesis as an entirely new modality of cancer therapy".

Scientists therefore decided to investigate the possibility of reformulating TNP-470 to improve its safety.

Lodamin, which was developed by Dr Ofra Benny at Children's Hospital Boston, overcomes the problems of TNP-470 while retaining its potency and ability to prevent capillary growth.

Encasing Lodamin in a nanocapsule enables it to be absorbed unaltered through the acidic environment in the stomach and reach the site of the tumour, where the capsule breaks down and slowly releases the drug.

Tests on mice have revealed that it accumulates in tumour tissue rather than healthy tissue and effectively blocks the growth of new blood vessels needed by the tumour.

The drug inhibited the growth of primary melanoma and lung tumours in mice, and was also found to reduce secondary tumours in the liver.

"I had never expected such a strong effect on these aggressive tumour models," said Dr Benny.

"When I looked at the livers of the mice, the treated group was almost clean. In the control group you couldn't recognise the livers - they were a mass of tumours."

The team are now continuing to study the impact of Lodamin in other animals with cancer.