Researchers have discovered a way to potentially combat chemotherapy-resistant breast cancer, according to a study published in the journal Chemical Science.

Breast Cancer Campaign (BCC) scientists at the University of Southampton in the UK have come across a way of curbing breast cancer cells’ craving for sugar.

Research has shown that cancer cells thrive on sugar from the blood. The cells process sugar as a fuel supply that encourages C-terminal binding proteins (CtBPs) to bind together. This process forms pairs of cells called “dimers,” which enable the cancer cells to grow and multiply.

The researchers developed a variety of chemicals called cyclic peptide inhibitors, which can block CtBPs from forming. When tested on breast cancer cells, the most effective chemical for this process was found to be CP61.

The researchers say they are now developing CP61 to be used as a form of breast cancer treatment.

Dr. Jeremy Blaydes of the university’s faculty of medicine says that although there have been major improvements in the treatment of breast cancer, chemotherapy-resistance eventually happens in around 20% of breast cancer cases. Chemotherapy-resistance shows when cancers that had previously responded to therapy suddenly begin to grow.

He says:

To overcome this resistance, innovative treatments that use new approaches to stop cancer from growing are desperately needed.

Because this is an entirely new approach to treatment, the drugs we are developing could be effective against breast cancers that have become resistant to current chemotherapies.”

Dr. Blaydes adds that this discovery of a potential treatment for breast cancer is made even more exciting because CtBPs are only active in cancer cells.

Therefore, blocking the “sweet-tooth” craving of the cancer cells should cause less damage to normal healthy cells and fewer side effects compared with existing treatments.

He adds:

This work is at an early stage in the laboratory, but it is really exciting as it has the potential to deliver a completely new kind of cancer drug, which could be available within 10 years.”

Dr. Stuart Griffiths, director of research at Breast Cancer Compaign, says that for women whose breast cancer has become resistant to chemotherapy, this treatment could potentially offer a much needed lifeline. He adds:

“Every year, thousands of women still die and millions are affected by breast cancer, so we will continue to seek out world-class research, bringing the brightest minds together to share knowledge and produce better, quicker results.”