Therapies for stopping the spread of cancer usually target malignant cells but another approach is to make healthy tissue less vulnerable to invasion. In clinical trials, a substance called olaptesed pegol is being tested as a treatment for multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that forms bone tumours – like those seen here, as yellow and light brown patches, in a coloured X-ray image of a patient’s skull. Scientists designed olaptesed pegol to disable a protein called SDF-1, which in healthy bone marrow behaves rather like the Pied Piper, attracting certain cells to new locations. Suspiciously high levels of SDF-1 were found to be present near the site of myeloma tumours in experimental mice and blocking it seems to have made the bone marrow less alluring to malignant cells, slowing the progress of the cancer and extending the lifespan of the mice.
Written by Mick Warwicker
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