Scientists believe they have hit upon the most promising breakthrough in fighting ovarian cancer for a decade.
After being treated with a new drug called ONX-0801 during a clinical trial, seven out of 15 patients were told their tumours had been reduced significantly.
ONX-0801 works by mimicking folic acid to enter the cancer cells, and then killing them by halting the action of a protein called hymidylate synthase. Because it targets cancer cells specifically, it carries none of the side effects associated with chemotherapy, such as nausea, hair loss, and a greater susceptibility to infections.
Dr Udai Banerji, who led the trial, said in response to the results: "As this is a completely new mechanism of action, it should add upward of six months to patients’ lives with minimal side-effects in extremely late phase ovarian cancer. This is much more than anything that has been achieved in the last 10 years.”
Ovarian cancer is a strain of the disease with an especially poor survival rate. According to Cancer Research UK, just 35% of patients survive the disease for more than 10 years after diagnosis. Dr Banerji pointed out that though his trial's results are "promising," further research and trials need to be conducted to determine just how effective ONX-0801 could be. "When eventually used early in the disease, the impact on survival may be better, [but] we don’t know that yet," he added.
Dr Catherine Pickworth of Cancer Research UK told the BBC: "It's encouraging to see this new drug is showing promise as a potential new treatment for ovarian cancer. The next steps will be for researchers to test the drug in larger clinical trials to confirm it works and is safe, and to work out which women with ovarian cancer this drug could help."