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A new study has shown a drug called berzosertib stopped tumour growth in patients with very advanced tumours. The drug was even more effective when administered alongside chemotherapy.

The drug works by blocking the protein involved in DNA repair. It is the first of a new family of “precision-medicine” treatments which work in this way.

Berzosertib works by preventing cancer cells from repairing damage to their cells. This is why it is so effective alongside chemotherapy, which works by damaging cancer’s DNA.

The study – which was only designed to test the safety of the drug – involved patients with very advanced tumours. The Institute of Cancer Research said there were however indications that the treatment was effective at stopping tumour growth.

Prof Chris Lord, a professor of cancer genomics at the Institute of Cancer Research, said it was unusual to see a clinical response at this stage of testing and described the results as “very promising”.

It’s right to remain cautious; the study only involved a small number of patients and further trials will be needed to confirm the treatment’s effectiveness. Nevertheless, the fact that tumours disappeared for one patient with advanced bowel cancer, is cause for optimism. Particularly since he has remained cancer-free for two years afterwards.

Traditional treatments target by tumour site, but Berzosertib targets genetic abnormality wherever it is in the body. It also only targets the tumorous cells.

If the drug continues to perform well in future tests, it is hoped that it can be developed into a targeted treatment for cancer patients.

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