Australian scientists produce drug making cancer cells "simply melt away"

Xinhua News Agency


A new cancer drug, tested for the first time by Melbourne researchers, has proved extremely effective in killing cancerous blood cells.

The clinical trial, undertaken by three Victorian research centers, showed that 80 percent of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia responded positively to the tablet treatment despite all other treatments failing.

The drug, venetoclax, developed by two pharmaceutical companies after 30 years of research, proved so effective in 20 percent of cases that patients were completely cleared of the disease.

"Venetoclax selectively targets the interaction responsible for keeping leukemia cells alive," Professor Andrew Roberts, a haematologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, told News Ltd on Thursday.

"In many cases we've seen the cancerous cells simply melt away. "

"This is a very exciting result for people who often had no other treatment options available."

The discovery comes as Victorian Health Minister, Jill Hennessy, prepares to unveil the haematology ward of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) on Thursday.

"These groundbreaking results are exactly what the VCCC is all about - the world's best clinicians, researchers and scientists working together to drive breakthroughs in cancer prevention, detection and treatment," Hennessy said on Thursday.

Venetoclax works by overcoming the BCL-2 protein, which protects blood cancer cells from other treatments, to kill the harmful cell.

The Leukemia Foundation estimates that 1,000 Australians are diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia every year, making it the most common type of leukaemia.

Full results of the drug's first human trials will be published on Thursday in the respected medical publication, New England Journal of Medicine.