News of the WeekCancer Research

Caution Raised About Possible New Drug

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Science  05 May 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5467, pp. 786-787
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5467.786

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Drug developers have been eager to move a protein known as TRAIL into human cancer trials, because it appeared to have ideal characteristics--killing off many types of cancer cells while leaving normal cells unscathed, and without any measurable toxicity in animals. But in this month's issue of Nature Medicine, a team of cell biologists reports that, previous studies notwithstanding, TRAIL kills normal human liver cells, both in culture and in tissue slices from normal individuals and patients with hepatitis or other liver diseases. If the results hold up, they could dash plans by the biotech firms Genentech in South San Francisco and Immunex in Seattle to jointly develop the potential anticancer drug, dubbed TRAIL/Apo2L.