New drug shows potential for treating cancers caused by viruses

Scientific Developments/Breakthroughs

US scientists have developed a promising new therapy approach that could be used to combat cancers caused by viruses.

A team at the Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Sciences Center has found that specialised fat molecules known as sphingolipids play a key role in the survival of aggressive lymphomas caused by viruses.

“A new study has highlighted an innovative method of combating cancers caused by viruses, which are often resistant to standard therapy approaches.“

Based on this discovery, the researchers were able to create a drug that prevents production of sphingolipids by lymphoma cells, thereby killing these cells, which are difficult to treat with standard therapies.

In studies, their therapy approach showed promise in the treatment of primary effusion lymphoma, an aggressive and deadly variant of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma that frequently affects HIV patients.

Dr Christopher Parsons, director of the HIV malignancies programme at LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, said the molecule has "the potential to stand alone as a single, orally administered drug with no need to combine it with other toxic drugs now routinely used but which fail to work for many patients".

Lymphoma is the term given to cancers that starts in the lymph glands or other organs of the lymphatic system. The Lymphoma Association estimates that every 40 minutes, someone in the UK is diagnosed with this type of cancer.

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