New scientific findings related to a rare cancer could pave the way for new treatments to be developed for age-related macular degeneration, one of the world's leading causes of sight loss, it has been suggested.
In a study published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine, experts explain that a sugar-loving protein drives the growth of Kaposi sarcoma tumours.
Interfering with these sugary interactions inhibited growth of Kaposi sarcomas in mice, hinting at the potential for new treatment strategies in humans, the group of researchers at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina notes.
Kaposi sarcoma is a cancer that is associated with infection with a herpes virus called HHV-8 and is prevalent in HIV patients, and though effective antiretroviral drugs have decreased the incidence of it, the cancer eventually progresses in many patients and treatment options are limited.
Knowing that carbohydrate-binding protein called galectin-1 is released by a variety of tumours and promotes their growth and metastasis, the Argentinean researchers have found that blocking galectin-1 in mice bearing established Kaposi sarcomas slowed tumour growth in part, by suppressing the formation of blood vessels that feed the tumour.
If the same holds true in humans, drugs targeting galectin-1 could provide new treatment options for patients with Kaposi sarcomas, the specialists say. In addition, these drugs might also hold promise for other diseases characterised by aberrant blood vessel growth, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cardiovascular diseases.
It comes after recent research by the National Eye Institute indicates that the problem of AMD may be growing, despite efforts to come up with a cure.The organisation believes as many as three million people in the US alone will suffer from AMD by 2020, and although drug treatments can protect the rods and cones of the eye for a short time, they are unable to restore the vision that has already been lost, and they often fail in the vast majority of AMD cases.