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New Peptide Drug Targets Liver Cancer from Within
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Preliminary reports are indicating a possible breakthrough in the fight against hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) with the development of a new drug called FFW.

Accounting for almost one-fifth of all cancer diagnoses worldwide and with an incidence of over half a million new cases each year, HCC is quickly becoming a global issue. Fast growing and particularly aggressive, the survival rate is less than 50% past the first year.

A team of scientists from the Cancer Institute at the National University of Singapore is hoping to reduce these terrible statistics with the help of a new drug that targets the SALL4 protein, associated with a number of cancers, including lung tumors and leukemia.

Until now, the only treatment course was Sorafenib, which unfortunately has many negative side effects (nausea, high blood pressure, pain, hair loss, itching, just to name a few) and would only prolong the average rate by three months.

Typically dormant, SALL4 reactivates in patients with primary liver cancer and forms a bond with another protein, NuRD, leading to the formation of tumors. FFW works by disrupting this partnership impeding movement and causing death among tumor cells.

The study notes that “the therapeutic peptide exhibits robust antitumor properties and works by inhibiting the repressive function of SALL4. Our work could also be beneficial to a broad range of solid cancers and leukemic malignancies with elevated SALL4”.

This could open the door for other types of treatment, more targeted and less toxic. Used in combination with Sorafenib, it has already shown a reduction in the growth for Sorafenib-resistant HCC, giving hope for future therapies.