A new drug that blocks cancer’s escape route from chemotherapy could be used to treat lung and pancreatic cancers.

Scientists in human cancer cells and in mice have shown that the drug boosts the effectiveness of conventional chemotherapy. The drug, discovered at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, is now scheduled to begin its first clinical trials in people patients with lung and pancreatic cancers, both of which have low survival rates. Most chemotherapies work by damaging the DNA of rapidly dividing cells. In response, cancer cells activate a molecule called CHK1 which delays cell division and gives cancer cells time to repair their damaged DNA.

The research showed that the new drug could be very effective in blocking CHK1, which could stop cancer cells from repairing DNA damage and prevent them from becoming resistant to the effects of chemotherapy. Among organisations supporting the work werethe the University of Kent, Newcastle Universityand drug discovery company Sareum. Fundingcame from Cancer Research UK.