A drug approved for leukaemia has also shown promise in treating a specific type of ovarian cancer in a Cancer Research UK-funded study published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.

Scientists from The Institute of Cancer Research, London, discovered that ovarian cancer cells in mice stopped growing after they were given a drug called dasatinib, which is marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb under the trade name Sprycel.

The researchers found a faulty gene that could be targeted to treat patients diagnosed with ovarian clear cell carcinoma, which accounts for around 25 percent of all ovarian cancer cases.

Cells carrying this gene mutation - present in around half of patients with ovarian clear cell carcinoma - grow differently to those without.

The study tested 68 different medicines on cancer cells with and without the mutation, and found that dasatinib was able to stop growth in those cells carrying it in mice.

"The next step will be to test whether this drug is effective in ovarian cancer patients," said Dr Chris Lord, leader of the Gene Function Team at the ICR. "If it is, we'll be able to get this drug to patients relatively fast as it's already approved for other types of cancer and we know it's safe."

Sprycel was approved by European regulators back in 2006 for chronic myeloid leukaemia and Ph+ acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Moonshot pledge
Meanwhile, CR UK also announced that it has joined forced with the US government's National Cancer Institute to radically accelerate progress against cancer, in one of the first international collaborations inspired by US Vice President Joe Biden's Cancer Moonshot initiative, that strives to end cancer.

The teams will develop and refine technology to revolutionise how researchers capture and analyse cancer cells circulating in patients' blood.

Using a "super-sensitive cell-scanning device" for liquid biopsies, the team is hoping to be able to identify patients with early-stage lung and bowel cancer who still have traces of the disease in their blood and are thus more likely to relapse.

This will give doctors the opportunity to rapidly start second-line treatments.

Monitoring this 'minimal residual disease' has transformed care in blood cancers like leukaemia, but techniques are not sensitive enough to monitor patients with 'solid' tumours, the charity notes.

The US and the UK teams will build and operate identical laboratories with real-time sharing of research data and experimental procedures.