Lung Cancer
Belgian researcher Pierre Sonveaux poses with a sample of sliced mouse lung which contains a tumour at the University of Louvain's Insitute of Experimental and Clinical Research in Brussels July 31, 2014. Reuters/Francois Lenoir

Melbourne researchers from Hudson Institute of Medical Science have made a breakthrough drug discovery that may stop emphysema and lung cancer as well as detect the killer diseases much earlier. The experts identified an inflammation-causing molecule responsible for signalling both the diseases to cause havoc.

According to Herald Sun, the researchers discovered an existing drug, sgp130Fc, that is currently in European human trial stage. It is being used to fight inflammatory bowel disease. The drug appears to be able to shut down the signalling system. It offers new hope to 15,000 Australians who die from the diseases every year.

Lead researcher professor Brendan Jenkins has also developed a blood test that will detect increased amounts of molecule Interleukin 6 (Il-6). Jenkins believes the screening will be able to detect the diseases before they reach danger levels. The Hudson researchers worked for six years to uncover the trans-signalling process Il-6 uses to drive cell growth in lung cancer and also cell destruction in emphysema. The experts have found the way to target Il-6.

“You see a dramatic reduction in the amount of tumours forming — they just don’t seem to grow anywhere near as well as the tumours would if sgp130Fc was not there. It is very effective at blocking and retarding the growth of these tumours,” Jenkins said.

The Hudson researchers are now working with Monash Health to further develop the blood test for the diseases by analysing more patient blood samples. Jenkins is also closely monitoring the European trials to fast-track the lung cancer emphysema trials.

“The more amazing thing is that if you treat an animal just before they would normally start to develop emphysema, the mice just don’t develop the disease at all. It blocks it completely and there is no emphysema at all,” Jenkins added.