THOUSANDS of breast cancer patients could benefit from a drug already proven to treat lung tumours.
Scientists have begun human trials after the treatment was found to kill breast cancer cells in mice.
The drug, crizotinib, targets a genetic defect that is found in around 7,000 breast cancer patients in the UK each year.
It is already used to treat non-small cell lung cancer by shrinking tumours.
Medics hope it can now be “repurposed” for women with the gene-related form of the disease.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, of charity Breast Cancer Now, called the discovery “extremely exciting”.
The new approach targets cells with faulty versions of a protein called E-cadherin.
This protein helps to bind healthy cells together but when defective it causes cancer cells to grow and divide abnormally.
E-cadherin defects occur in 13 per cent of all breast cancer cases and in up to 90 per cent of certain breast cancers.
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Laboratory experiments at London’s Institute of Cancer Research found crizotinib killed cancerous breast cells without harming healthy ones.
The ICR’s Professor Chris Lord said: “These are hugely promising laboratory findings and we’re very keen to learn whether this drug really works as a treatment for women with breast cancer.
“It’s an approach worth pursuing. We’re very enthusiastic about the prospect of applying our results in clinical trials.”
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