Protein From Malaria Parasite Can Stop the Growth of Highly Aggressive Bladder Cancer
Scientists from British Columbia created a new drug from a malaria protein that's capable of stopping the growth of chemotherapy-resistant bladder cancer.
The new drug, described in a paper published in the journal European Urology, showed that the so-called VAR2CSA, a protein derived from the malaria parasite, binds in certain sugar molecules expressed in bladder cancer. Due to this, VAR2CSA can be used to directly deliver cancer drugs to the tumors.
"There is a massive clinical need to find new treatments for bladder cancer and we saw an opportunity to target this disease with our new malaria drug," said Mads Daugaard, an assistant professor of urologic science at the University of British Columbia and one of the authors of the paper, in a press release.
Daugaard added that the study's result gives new hope in the development of a cure for lethal bladder cancer.
For the study, the researchers implanted highly aggressive bladder cancer tumors in the bladder of mice. The tumors were completely resistant to chemotherapy. The researchers observed that the tumors responded dramatically to malaria drug combination.
About 80 percent of the mice treated with the malaria drug combo were alive after 70 days. On the other hand, mice included in three different control groups died of the cancer.
Bladder cancer is considered to be the most expensive cancer to manage on a per patient basis. At present, the only options for bladder cancer are chemotherapy and immune therapy. For invasive bladder cancer, there is only one line of chemotherapy used by doctors.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 54,000 men and 17,000 women develop bladder cancer in the United States every year. Out of those, about 11,000 men and 4,500 women die from the disease.
Smoking is considered to be the most important risk factor of bladder cancer. Some common symptoms of bladder cancer include blood in the urine, back pain, pelvic pain, pain when urinating and having to urinate often.