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‘Cancer-killing pill’ that appears to ‘annihilate’ solid tumours is now being tested on humans

A “cancer-killing pill” has appeared to “annihilate” solid tumours in early research – leaving healthy cells unaffected.

The new drug has been in development for 20 years, and is now undergoing pre-clinical research in the US.

Known as AOH1996, it targets a cancerous variant of a protein called proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA).

In its mutated form, PCNA is “critical” in the replication of DNA, and the repair of all “expanding tumours”.

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AOH1996 is being worked on by City of Hope, one of America’s largest cancer research and treatment organisations.

Professor Linda Malkas, who has been developing the drug, explained: “PCNA is like a major airline terminal hub containing multiple plane gates.

“Data suggests PCNA is uniquely altered in cancer cells, and this fact allowed us to design a drug that targeted only the form of PCNA in cancer cells.

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“Our cancer-killing pill is like a snowstorm that closes a key airline hub, shutting down all flights in and out only in planes carrying cancer cells.”

Read more: AI tools ‘safely read’ breast cancer scans

A consultant analysing a mammogram

While initial results are promising, the research so far has only concluded that AOH1996 can suppress tumour growth in cell and animal models – with the first phase of a clinical trial in humans now under way.

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The pill has been shown to be effective in treating cells derived from breast, prostate, brain, ovarian, cervical, skin and lung cancers.

PCNA had previously been labelled as “undruggable” – and it is hoped the breakthrough could lead to more personalised, targeted medicines for cancer in the future.

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