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home : columns : ask the doctors June 16, 2019

4/5/2019 10:10:00 AM
New MuTaTo cancer treatment has potential to be a game-changer

Dear Doctor: What do you know about the new cancer treatment called MuTaTo? It is being reported as a cure for all cancers. Is it available here yet? Does it work?

Dear Reader: You're referring to claims made by Israeli scientists in January, stating that they are about a year away from releasing what they describe as a complete cure for cancer. The treatment is advertised as taking just a few weeks to complete, mostly free of serious side effects, and costing less than treatments currently available. At this time, the researchers have completed a mouse study, but have not yet published supporting research materials in a peer-reviewed journal. The new therapy has also not yet undergone any clinical trials.

The name MuTaTo derives from the phrase "multi-target toxin." Unlike existing precision therapies, which mostly focus on a single target in a cancer cell, the Israeli scientists say they have developed a multi-pronged approach. The idea is that the new therapy will disrupt the growth of cancer cells at several sites and at multiple stages of their development, which will interfere with their ability to mutate. It's this ability for cancer cells to quickly adapt that allows them to become immune to a specific treatment and thus resume their growth and spread. The Israeli researchers also said that in time, the new therapy would be customizable. That is, each patient's cancer would be biopsied and analyzed at the molecular level, and a personalized form of the new drug would be created.

In the big picture, the researchers have likened their new therapy to an antibiotic that will target cancer cells. They also compared the concept behind the new therapy to the multiple-drug cocktails that proved to be game-changers in the fight against HIV.

The proposed new therapy reportedly will also include a toxin that, because it will be precisely targeted, kills cancer cells but spares healthy cells. This would lessen or even eliminate the often-debilitating side effects of existing cancer treatments. Researchers said they will embark on clinical trials soon, with the hope of making their cancer drug available in a few years.

The announcement of MuTaTo by the chairman of the board of Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies, the company that is developing the treatment, has been met with a hefty dose of skepticism in the medical community in the United States and worldwide. While agreeing that it would be a remarkable step forward in cancer treatment if the promised drug regimen proved successful, doctors and researchers expressed concern that the announcement could give cancer patients false hope.

According to American Cancer Society's chief medical officer, who published his thoughts on the ACS website, it's important to keep in mind that the research remains in an early stage. The mechanism of this proposed new drug reflects a new and exciting treatment pathway that many scientists are now exploring. However, MuTaTo is still at the start of the long and exacting process required to move a potential new therapy from the laboratory bench to a patient's bedside.

Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an internist and associate professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Elizabeth Ko, M.D., is an internist and assistant professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Send your questions to askthedoctors@mednet.ucla.edu, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations, 10880 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1450, Los Angeles, CA, 90024. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.





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