Prostate cancer, the second-most common cancer among American men, will kill an estimated 26,000 American men this year, according to the American Cancer Society. The statistics are not much different for the rest of the world.
But, an Indian couple, researching on prostrate cancer at Deakin University in Australia has achieved a breakthrough in the treatment.
Dr Rupinder Kanwar and her husband Professor Jagat Kanwar, along with two others, has found out that by piggy backing a chemotherapy drug onto a well-known milk protein could create a combination that is lethal for cancer cells without the toxic side-effects.
Their research has been published in the international journal Scientific Reports.
Dr Rupinder Kanwar, a senior research fellow with the Deakin Medical School's Centre for Molecular and Medical Research said, "Dox is used widely for treating several types of cancers and known for causing toxicity to heart, brain, kidneys and leading to cardiac arrest/heart failure."
According to her, prostate cancer is one of the few cancers where chemotherapy is not the primary treatment.
"With this latest study we have shown that by coupling Dox with lactoferrin the cancer cells take in the drug rather than pump it straight out," Dr. Rupinder added.
Lactoferrin is an iron-binding protein found in cow milk and human milk. It is known for its immune boosting and antimicrobial properties making it an important part of the body's protection against infection. It is also added as a key ingredient in baby formula.
It is lactoferrin's ability as an iron transporting protein to mop up much needed iron for growth of microbes (bacteria and parasites) from the site of infection and its cancer cell killing activities that are exploited by the Deakin scientists to create an anticancer bio-drug that has no side-effects and improves the immune system.
Previous work by the team with other types of cancer, funded by the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) to Prof. Jagat Kanwar and Dr Rupinder Kanwar, found that lactoferrin is not digested by the gut enzymes when fully saturated with iron and given as smart nano-capsules.
"This latest study builds on this previous work, whereby to target toxicity and drug resistance, we coupled the Dox with lactoferrin which was then fed to a particular breed of mice that naturally develop prostate cancer. Rather than being pumped out by the cancer cells, Dox was taken to these cells by lactoferrin through its receptors which then stays in the nucleus of the cancer cells to perform its lethal action," Prof. Jagat Kanwar said.
"Within 96 hours all the cancer cells were dead when grown in 3D cancers in a culture dish from drug resistant and cancer stem cells. In feeding experiments, as an added benefit, there was an increase in red blood cells, white blood cells and haemoglobin indicating that the immune system had also been boosted," he added.
Now the research team wants to move to trials with real patients. "The results of our research show great promise. We could soon develop personalised medication for prostate cancer patients," Dr Rupinder said.
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