A pill used to treat toenail infections could help to cure bowel cancer, research reveals today.
The antifungal drug itraconazole – also known as Sporanox – may kill off tumour cells which cause people’s cancer to spread or to come back after treatment.
Scientists at Cancer Research UK made the promising discovery in lab experiments on mice, and now hope to start human trials.
They found the drug destroys cancer cells which are resistant to chemotherapy, and wipes out ‘sleeping’ cells which make the disease return after treatment.
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common form in the UK and just under 60 per cent of patients survive for five years after diagnosis.
Researchers say if the treatment is successful in humans it could be used to target dormant cancer cells – the ‘sleeping’ cells – in other types of tumours.
Itraconazole, also known as Sporanox, is commonly used to treat fungal nail infections, but scientists say it could stop bowel cancer from spreading or coming back after treatment
One of the study’s authors, Dr Simon Buczacki, of Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, said: ‘One of the biggest challenges in treating any cancer is the diversity of different cells within the same tumour.
‘We have targeted a type of cell that lies asleep within bowel tumours, remaining unresponsive to treatment and putting the patient at risk of their cancer coming back.’
In the study Dr Buczacki and his colleagues analysed the dormant tumour cells, which are resistant to chemotherapy because it targets actively growing cells.
So even if it looks like a treatment has been effective, some of these cells can later awaken after treatment has finished and cause the tumour to regrow.
31 May 2018