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Drug may limit radiation damage

April 10, 2008
Courtesy Science
and World Science staff

Re­search­ers say they have de­vel­oped a drug that pro­tects an­i­mals’ bone mar­row and gas­t­ro­in­tes­ti­nal cells from de­struc­tive radia­t­ion.

The com­pound pro­tects or­di­nary cells with­out re­duc­ing the ef­fec­tive­ness of radia­t­ion ther­a­py against tu­mor cells, mak­ing it a po­ten­tially use­ful ad­junct to can­cer treat­ment, the sci­en­tists said.

Radia­t­ion is a key treat­ment for many can­cers, but drugs that lim­it its dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects on healthy cells are needed to re­duce the some­times se­vere side ef­fects. The new drug, CBLB502, tested in mice and mon­keys, works by ac­ti­vat­ing a well-known mo­lec­u­lar mech­an­ism that some can­cer cells use to stave off cell death, said the re­search­ers.

The stu­dy, by Lyud­mila Bur­delya of Ros­well Park Can­cer In­sti­tute in Buf­fa­lo, N.Y. and col­leagues, is to ap­pear in the April 11 is­sue of the re­search jour­nal Sci­ence.

One dose of the drug giv­en to the an­i­mals shortly be­fore re­ceiv­ing radia­t­ion ther­a­py sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced radia­t­ion dam­age to bone mar­row and gas­t­ro­in­tes­ti­nal cells and pro­longed the an­i­mals’ sur­viv­al, ac­cord­ing to the group. The re­search­ers al­so said the drug might be use­ful in radia­t­ion emer­gen­cies, such as dur­ing a nu­clear plant mal­func­tion or “dirty bomb” detona­t­ion.


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Researchers say they have developed a drug that protects animals’ bone marrow and gastrointestinal cells from destruction by radiation. The compound protects ordinary cells without reducing the effectiveness of radiation therapy against tumor cells, making it a potentially useful adjunct to cancer treatment, the scientists said. Radiation is a key treatment for many cancers, but drugs that limit its devastating effects on healthy cells are needed to reduce the sometimes severe side effects. The new drug, CBLB502, tested in mice and monkeys, works by activating a well-known molecular mechanism that some cancer cells use to stave off cell death, said the researchers. The study, by Lyudmila Burdelya of Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y. and colleagues, is to appear in the April 11 issue of the research journal Science. One dose of the drug given to the animals shortly before receiving radiation therapy significantly reduced radiation damage to bone marrow and gastrointestinal cells and prolonged the animals’ survival, according to the group. The researchers also say the drug might be useful as a protectant in radiation emergencies, such as radiation exposure during a nuclear plant malfunction or “dirty bomb” detonation.