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Indian-Australian couple finds breakthrough in prostate cancer treatment

Dr Rupinder Kanwar and Prof Jagat Kanwar Source: New Corp Australia

The treatment involves a well-known milk protein and chemotherapy drug Dox that are together claimed to be lethal for drug-resistant cancer cells.

An Indian-origin medical scientist couple have made an important breakthrough in prostate cancer treatment that could help reduce the toxic side effects for patients.

Deakin University medical scientists Dr Rupinder Kanwar and her husband, Prof Jagat Kanwar along with two other scientists have revealed that coupling chemotherapy drug Dox with a well-known milk protein, lactoferrin could kill cancer cells without side effects.

Dr Kanwar said doctors had abandoned the use of Dox to treat prostate cancer due to the toxicity it caused which could lead to cardiac arrest.

“Prostate cancer is one of the few cancers where chemotherapy is not the primary treatment. This is because these particular cancer cells are able to flush out the drug and become resistant to it, while the administered Dox continues to kill off the body’s normal cells resulting in a range of side effects, the most damaging of which is heart failure.”

“With this latest study we have shown that by coupling Dox with lactoferrin the cancer cells take in the drug rather than pump it straight out,” she added.

Lactoferrin is an iron-binding protein found in cow milk and human milk. It is known for its immune boosting and antimicrobial properties making it an important part of the body’s protection against infection. It is also added as a key ingredient in baby formula.

Funded by the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF), the previous work by Prof Jagat Kanwar and Dr Rupinder Kanwar and their team with other types of cancer found that lactoferrin is not digested by the gut enzymes when fully saturated with iron and given as smart nano-capsules.

“This latest study builds on this previous work, whereby to target toxicity and drug resistance, we coupled the Dox with lactoferrin, which was then fed to a particular breed of mice that naturally develop prostate cancer. The rate of recovery in mice studied was 100% and we expect nearly the same in humans. This drug, coupled with cow-milk-derived protein lactoferrin (bLf) not only reduces tumours faster than the ‘drug alone’ (Doxorubicin), it also kills the cancer stem cells responsible for drug resistance and tumour re-growth and spread,” said Prof. Jagat Kanwar.

“As an added benefit, there was an increase in red blood cells, white blood cells and haemoglobin, indicating that the immune system had also been boosted. Interestingly, this combination not only targeted prostate tumour development in mice, it also led to the repair of the Dox-induced damage to vital organs including heart and brain,” he added.

The main goal of the research team is now to move to trials with real patients. “We are looking for commercial partners to sponsor these clinical trials. We are presently trying to get funding through AISRF. If funding is arranged, personalised medicine can reach the Indian markets in the next 4-5 years at reasonably affordable prices,” Dr Rupinder said.

The authors of the study are Jagat R. Kanwar, Rupinder K. Kanwar, Jayanth Suryanarayanan Shankaranarayanan, and Afrah Jalil Abd Al-Juhaishi.

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