New quadruple treatment proves to be effective against two types of cancer

A new study conducted by Institute of Cancer Research, London, scientists found that four treatment drugs used together were significantly more effective in fighting bowel and head & neck cancer than using the drugs separately.

The pre-clinical study, published in this week's issue of Radiotherapy & Oncology, found that treating cancer cells with a genetically modified measles virus, radioactive iodide, radiation treatment and gene-targeting drugs proved to be most effective in cancer treatment. The new treatment was able to deliver more radiation to cancer cells while still protecting normal tissue cells.

"Measles is usually considered an enemy to human health, but here we've harnessed the virus to kill cancer cells," Professor Kevin Harrington of the Institute of Cancer Research said. "Each of the four treatments in this study can work on their own against cancer, but by using them together they add up to have an even larger effect, giving cancer a quadruple whammy."

Harrington said the discovery is very significant, as this is the first time cancer treatment has been conducted in this way.

"Three of the treatments used here are specifically selective for cancer but this is the first time they have been used together in this way," Harrington said. "This study is a proof of principle that multi-layered, cancer-selective treatments can combine to give even better results. More research is needed to study this combined four-way treatment in a clinical setting, but it represents an attractive way to improve on what we can achieve with radiotherapy."

Researchers tried different combinations of drugs and found that the four aforementioned were not only most effective, but also proved the produce the best survival rate, 80 percent, among the mice tested with colorectal cancer tumors.

The research was funded by The Institute of Cancer Research, Cancer Research UK, the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and the ICR and the Institut National du Cancer Paris.