Mesothelioma Patients Hopeful on Anti-Cancer Drugs Entering Clinical Trial Phase

Scientist looks at Erlenmeyer flask

A new class of anti-cancer drugs is nearing the clinical trial phase and may eventually be available for treatment of aggressive diseases like pancreatic cancer, and potentially mesothelioma.

Developed by researchers at the University of Sydney, these cancer-fighting drugs manage the spread and growth of cancerous cells, with  minimal side effects.

Mesothelioma is a rare disease that only affects 3,000 Americans each year, and is known for advancing relatively fast. Most patients of this cancer live between four and 18 months after their diagnosis. Current mesothelioma treatment options often result in multiple side effects, including vomiting, hair loss, nerve damage, jaw pain and more.

Clinical trials have long been a place for cancer patients to discover new, and unproven, treatment options. Getting these anti-cancer drugs to the clinical trial phase may allow more patients to discover their potential benefits.

Cancer Drugs Make Significant Progress

This new class of anti-cancer drugs is considered a potential breakthrough because they focus only on cancerous cells while leaving non-cancerous cells alone. As a result, the drugs drastically reduce the side effects commonly associated with cancer treatment.

Professor Des Richardson, head of the Iron Metabolism and Chelation Program at the University of Sydney, played a significant role in the research of the drugs.

“These new agents attack a fundamental characteristic of cancer cells while leaving normal cells alone,” said Richardson.

The drugs increase the levels of a protein known as NDRG1, which helps prevents the spread of the cancer.

“This will present a significant step forward in the fight against cancer and provide cancer sufferers new hope for a better outcome,” Richardson states.

The leader of this research project is Dr. Zaklina Kovacevic, NHMRC Early Career Fellow. Alongside Professor Richardson, she is confident that this latest research will greatly benefit cancer research and the medical community at large.

“Together with a recent article in the journal, Antioxidants and Redox Signaling, these studies advance our knowledge of cancer cell biology and how we can target specific molecules to stop cancer progressing,” Dr. Kovacevic said.

Hope for Mesothelioma Patients

Traditional mesothelioma treatment options include chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy. Because the cancer is often diagnosed in later stages, these treatments often become less affective and are rarely curative.

The research being conducted at the University of Sydney provides new hope to cancer patients of all aggressive diseases. According to the university’s website, Professor Richardson is currently in serious discussion with an American-based company to develop the drugs to a point that is acceptable for clinical trials.

Professor Jonathan Stone, Executive Director of the Bosch Institute, aligns his sentiments with Professor Richardson and Dr. Kovacevic.

“For anyone who has been through, or cared for a cancer sufferer through, the purgatory of chemotherapy, the prospect of anti-cancer drugs which are broadly effective but with few side effects is immensely welcome,” said Stone.


Mark Hall joined the Mesothelioma Center as a writer in 2011. Prior to joining the content team, Mark graduated from the University of Florida and then spent several years writing about business, entrepreneurship and technology for various online publications.

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