UNIVERSITY researchers in Bradford say they have discovered a new way of stopping lung and breast cancer cells resisting chemotherapy in a breakthrough that could save lives.

Experts at Bradford’s Institute of Cancer Therapeutics, led by Professor Mohamed El-Tanani, now need to find funding from cancer research funders, pharmaceutical companies and investors to start clinical trials on patients.

Researchers, in collaboration with Queen’s University Belfast, have screened millions of potential drugs to come up with two strong contenders they believe would block a cancer-inducing protein called Ran-GTP found in patients’ diseased cells.

Their findings were published in medical journal Oncotarget this week and have excited Cancer Research UK.

The charity’s science information officer Catherine Pickworth said: “When cancer becomes resistant to chemotherapy it’s a lot harder to treat. Excitingly, this study has identified a potential target to stop or even reverse cancer resistance to a chemotherapy drug called Gefitinib. Now more research and clinical trials are needed to find and test a drug that will help patients whose cancers have become resistant to chemotherapy.”

One of the drugs researchers want to trial is already known to be safe for humans and the other has been tested on mice, which means clinical tests on patients could start even sooner.

Worldwide scientists already know that Ran-GTP regulates another protein called c-Met which has previously been linked to several cancers. Too much c-Met causes chemotherapy resistance in breast and lung cancer and there are drug trials already happening to try and hold back its effect. But Professor El-Tanani and his team have taken one step back from that research to look at Ran-GTP and they believe their new research shows that targeting it instead of c-Met could be a more effective approach.

“We’ve already screened millions of potential compounds that have the potential to inhibit Ran to find the most potent one. We now have two very strong candidates – one is ready to move forward into clinical trials, the other is nearly ready. We just need the funding.

“It’s been a long road to get to this stage, but we’re very excited about the clinical potential for Ran-GTP inhibitors.”