real life

Could sharks hold the key to curing breast cancer?

Researchers trying to cure cancer search far and wide. There isn't anything they won't try to rid the world of this hideous disease and some of their discoveries are just amazing.

Case-in-point: Scottish scientists have just discovered that there is an antibody in the blood of sharks that could help fight breast cancer.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation reports that breast cancer is the most common cancer in Australian women after non-melanoma skin cancer. 28.2 per cent of all new cancers in women are cases of breast cancer.

Survival rates have steadily increased however more needs to be done.

The antibody scientists have discovered in shark blood is unique to sharks. It's the so-called IgNAR antibodies that scientists say can prevent the growth of cancer cells. They want to use shark blood in their research and hopefully create a new drug to fight breast cancer.

The finding is so significant that biologists ant eh University of Aberdeen have already been awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars by Scottish cancer charity the Association for International Cancer Research to carry out a three-year study.

Two molecules in shark blood - HER2 and HER3, are found on the surface of cancer cells and when they get together they signal cancer cells to grow and divide. IgNAR could be used to stop the molecules sending those signals.

Researcher Dr Helen Dooley says the antibodies are so interesting because they behave so differently to the antibodies found in humans. "We believe we can exploit the novel binding of IgNAR and use it to stop HER2 and HER3 molecules from working, and prompting cancer cells to grow and divide," she told the Telegraph.

And while shark blood antibodies as a form of treatment for cancer is years away, it's an important breakthrough. Dr Dooley says, "This is only the first step in a very long process but if our hypothesis holds true we hope to develop new anti-cancer drugs based upon these unique shark antibodies."

While the research is based in Scotland we imagine Australia has quite a few white pointers it can lend to the study.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation website today to help work towards a future free from breast cancer.