A cancer research breakthrough that wipes out ovarian cancer cells has been unveiled.
The cancer kills 11 British women every day with survival rates of only 35 per cent, according to Cancer Research UK.
But researchers have developed what they call “one-two punch” that works by forcing cancer cells into a dying state called senescence before wiping them out using a process called senolysis.
They found drugs that blocked enzymes behind repairing DNA damage in cancer cells stopped the body becoming resistant to chemotherapy treatment.
The study, which has been published in the journal Nature Communications, shows the effectiveness of the “one-two punch” on cells of ovarian cancer patients.
Study co-author Professor Francis Rodier, a researcher at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) and the Université de Montréal, in Canada, said: “In the case of epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) – the most common and lethal ovarian cancer – we act in two stages.
“First, we force the cancer cells to age prematurely i.e. we force them into senescence.
“This is the first therapeutic punch. We throw our second punch using senolysis, destroying and eliminating them. This strategy requires excellent coordination of the two steps.”
Co-author Professor Anne-Marie Mes-Masson, a researcher at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre and the Université de Montréal, in Canada, said: “Thanks to our ‘one-two punch’ approach, we have managed to destroy senescent EOC cells in preclinical ovarian cancer models.
“Our approach could improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy in combination with PARP inhibitors and counteract the systematic resistance that develops with this treatment.
“Our study was done using cells taken from our biobank of samples from CHUM ovarian cancer patients.
“These patients agreed to take part in the research study and let us store their biological specimens.
“Our ‘one-two punch strategy’ was also tested on preclinical ovarian and breast cancer models, which allowed us to validate its effectiveness.”
Over time, our cells naturally age and enter a phase called cellular senescence which do not divide into more cells and build up in the body.
This causes the development of diseases such as cancer and recent research has focused on destroying these kinds of cells.
The researchers discovered cancer cells can be forced to age quickly and enter senescence following chemotherapy in combination with PARP enzyme inhibitors.
The enzymes help repair damage to DNA and blocking them prevented cancer cells from repairing their DNA, proliferating and caused them to age prematurely, the study found.
Prof Rodier said the results of this study would be used to propose clinical trials for ovarian and triple-negative breast cancer.
But warned they had only been used preclinical models in which there was no immune system.
He said: “Given the importance of the immune response in humans, we need to continue evaluating our strategy in a context closer to biological reality.”
According to Cancer Research UK, there are around 4,100 ovarian cancer deaths in the UK every year – equating to 11 everyday.
The cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer death and accounts for one in 20 of all cancer deaths for women in the UK.
Women aged 85 to 89 suffer the worst mortality rates from it but the UK death count for ovarian cancer is predicted projected to fall by 37 percent to ten deaths per 100,000 females by 2035 compared to rates in 2014.