Breakthrough points to new cancer drug class

Researchers are hailing new work decoding a key enzyme as a breakthrough that could lead to an entirely new class of anti-cancer therapies. Emmanuel Skordalakes, a professor at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, says that telomerase is present in nearly all cancers and presents an ideal target for drug researchers. Once telomerase is activated in cancer cells, it opens the door to endless replication. Inhibiting that process could have enormous implications.

"That means that a drug that deactivates telomerase would likely work against all cancers, with few side effects," says the scientist. His team was able to create a three-dimensional structure of the active region of the enzyme by using X-ray crystallography.

Obviously much work remains on whether a telomerase inhibitor can effectively work as billed. But researchers in the field say that the new work represents a major breakthrough in cancer biology.

- check out the AFP report