Researchers from Trinity College Dublin have teamed up with colleagues from the University of Siena in Italy to discover a drug that can kill leukemia cells.

Pyrrolo-1.5-benzoxazepine-15 (PBOX-15) is capable of killing previously resistant strains of leukemia.

The Irish Cancer Society funded the research project and tests show that while the new drug kills chronic lymphocytic leukemia, it does no harm to normal blood cells.

The research findings from the Irish/Italian efforts have been published in the latest edition of “Cancer Research.”

The study’s lead investigator, Professor Mark Lawler from the School of Medicine at Trinity, paid tribute to the international effort.

“This important discovery is the result of a truly collaborative approach, involving researchers across the different disciplines of chemistry, biochemistry and molecular medicine at TCD, together with our colleagues in Siena and Belfast,” he said.

“The complimentary expertise allowed us to approach the problem of killing CLL cells from a number of angles.”

While cancerous cells can become resistant to chemotherapy, the PBOX-15 drug kills even the resistant ones by breaking them down and causing them to die.

PBOX-15 was able to kill cancerous cells that were resistant to fludarabine, which is most used to fight leukemia today.

CEO of The Irish Cancer Society, John McCormack, hailed the finding of the research.

"The Irish Cancer Society welcomes these research findings and is proud to have funded this high quality research. The Society is the largest voluntary funder of cancer research in Ireland and one of our objectives is to fund researchers that will ultimately develop new and better treatments for cancer patients” he said.
“The findings that are being published today emphasize the potential for basic science discoveries to translate to clinical benefit.  These findings now need to be brought from the laboratory to the bedside so that they will ultimately benefit patients with this common form of leukemia.”

Tests will continue to see if there are side effects but the news comes as a major breakthrough in the fight against leukemia.