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'Smart Bomb'

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Cancer researchers at the University of Bradford in the UK have created a treatment that only activates itself once it touches a tumor, thereby saving healthy cells from being destroyed, reports Wired UK's Duncan Geere. The drug is based on colchicine, a compound derived from the autumn crocus flower. The colchicine is attached to a string of seven amino acids that stop it from working, Geere says. When the amino acid string meets a particular class of enzymes that signal a tumor environment, it is sheared off and the colchicine — which starves the tumor by destroying its blood vessels — is activated. "Tests on mice have shown a 70 percent cure rate after a single dose on four different types of cancer," Geere says. "The remaining 30 percent of animals responded to the treatment, but weren't cured outright." Laurence Patterson, from the University of Bradford's Institute for Cancer Therapeutics, calls this approach a "smart bomb" that can be targeted to a tumor, sparing healthy tissue. The university is now trying to recruit investors to raise £3.5 million to start clinical trials.

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