Sea snails provide a clue to reproductive cancer treatments

Sea snails provide a clue to reproductive cancer treatments

October 03, 2012 9:30PM

AdelaideNow report

SEA snails hold the key to releasing women from some of the most deadly cancers, research suggests.

Flinders University researcher Vicki Edwards has discovered a compound which selectively targets and kills cells in ovarian cancer - one of the most deadly cancers for women.

"These compounds are not at all toxic to mice, so it's really promising because that's the hardest thing when you are developing any new drug," Ms Edwards said.

"This result highlights the potential to develop a new treatment for female reproductive cancers."

She said a chemist had also synthesised the compound, which she hoped would produce the same results.

"Ovarian cancer isn't as common as lung or breast cancer in women.

Vicki Edwards sea snail research

"But the problem is that there is normally a high mortality rate." Each year, more than 1200 women are  diagnosed with ov-arian cancer - about three per day in Australia.

About 800 of these will die from the disease.

"Women often get diagnosed at a late stage, they don't have the same warning signs that you do with other cancers and by the time you are diagnosed the cancer has spread into other tissues," Ms Edwards said.

"The prognosis is often quite low."

Less than half of the women who have ovarian cancer live for five years beyond their diagnosis.

Ms Edwards said while she knows the compounds do work, she now needs to look at why and how these drugs are working and why they selectively target and kill cancer cells.

"We want to find out what are these compounds doing that instigates natural cell death," she said.

"A cancer cell is basically a cell which forgets to die - it mutates and the cell continues to grow."