Scientists in Singapore have discovered a potential new treatment that may bring some hope for cancer patients with a highly aggressive form of lymphoma.
The compound involved is already being tested on a different illness – to treat rheumatoid arthritis, a local media reports.
It has been screened for safety, and so the trial process for the patients suffering from the cancer in question – NK/T-cell lymphoma – can be cut short.
“We are now planning to start clinical trials for patients,” Prof. Teh Bin Tean from the National Cancer Centre in Singapore said.
“In a best-case scenario, the drug could be available for treatment within five years,” he said.
Lymphoma is cancer that begins in the immune system. It is the fifth and sixth most common cancer in men and women respectively, with the NCCS seeing more than 300 cases a year.
NK/T-cell lymphoma, which is rare among Caucasians, is more prevalent in Asian populations.
Teh, who is director and principal investigator at the NCCS- Vari, Van Andel Research Institute, Translational Research Laboratory in the centre, hopes to start such a trial with around 25 patients in a year or two.
“I am hopeful that we might have found a molecular target for the treatment of at least some patients with this otherwise-fatal disease,” he added.
In 2010, a team of more than 20 local doctors and researchers with expertise in cancer, genomics, pathology and bioinformatics came together to study it.
They identified mutations in the Janus kinase 3 (JAK3) gene that seemed to have a major role in driving the cancer in a significant number of patients.