Scientists at the Australian National University (ANU) today said they found and blocked a vital "supply route" that cancer cells use to obtain nutrients and grow.
Professor Stefan Broer said his team identified the "gateways" through which cancer cells "feed", blocked them and then found the cells almost completely stopped growing, in a discovery which could revolutionise chemotherapy and save lives.
"This should lead to chemotherapy with much less serious side-effects, as normal cells do not use glutamine as a building material," Xinhua news agency quoted Broer as saying.
"Crucial white blood cells, which current treatments damage, could be spared, and it could cut out the hair loss that chemotherapy causes."
He said that most cancer research undertaken currently is focused on one particular strain of cancer cell, whereas his team's discovery could be used to stop the growth of hundreds of different cancer types.
Broer's team initially identified one "gateway" which it blocked by disabling the cells' "glutamine transport mechanism", but the cancer found another way to feed on nutrients. The team then found and blocked a second gateway and the cancer cells stopped growing.
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