GOLD could form part of the treatment for ovarian cancer, as according to new research a gold-containing drug could improve the prognosis of patients with the disease and a BRCA1gene mutation.
The drug, auranofin, is currently used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. However, recent research has shown that it could also be useful in the treatment of patients with cancer. In a study conducted at the University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK, researchers successfully demonstrated that BRCA1-deficient cancer cells are more vulnerable to drugs that attack DNA, the mechanism of which can be traced back to the DNA repairing role of the BRCA1 protein.
BRCA1 gene mutations have been shown to increase the risk of a wide range of cancers, principally breast and ovarian cancers. At the same time, they are known to be present in 15–20% of ovarian cancers, the fifth most common type of cancer in women worldwide.
In their study, Prof Awadhesh Jha, Associate Head of Research, School of Biological Sciences, Department of Genetic Toxicology & Ecotoxicology, University of Plymouth and colleagues demonstrated that two types of ovarian cancer cell line, OVCAR5 and SKOV3, were sensitive to treatment with auranofin. The researchers then tested BRCA1-depleted versions of the cancer and found a decrease in cancer cell survival of up to 37%, a finding that was particularly evident in the SKOV3 cells. The efficacy of the treatment was evident, not just due to an increase in cancer cell death, but also due to the higher number of lethal DNA double-strand breaks observed.
“It suggests that auranofin has the potential to be considered for future clinical studies to treat such ovarian cancers and this could serve as the springboard to use other available drugs which are not used as chemotherapeutic drugs,” stated Prof Jha. The study of drugs that are currently available as treatments for other diseases offers a huge advantage, namely that their effect on the body are well-documented.
Clinical trials are ongoing, but it is hoped that auranofin could be applied in the treatment of the most common type of ovarian cancer, recurrent epithelial ovarian cancer, which accounts for 90% of all ovarian cancer cases.