Could Cockle-Chemo be the next cancer cure?

Behind the doors of the laboratories of the University of Salford, extensive research has been taking place as to the effectiveness of sugars from the common cockle (Cerastoderma edule) at treating childhood cancer.

1 in 500 children will be diagnosed with cancer before they reach the age of 14 years old. Currently the majority of childhood cancer treatments are watered down variants of adult treatments, resulting in devastating side effects to 60% of childhood cancer survivors.

Side effects of treatment on children’s bodies

The colloquially phrased ‘cockle chemo’ has been shown that it could be suitable for children as a less toxic alternative to traditional treatments.

Publishing in the journal Marine Drugs, the Salford team have tested the mollusc-derived sugars with positive results against leukaemia, breast, lung and colon cancer cells and tumours.


‘The impact on tumours is encouraging’ Dave Pye, Director of Child Cancer Research Charity Kidscan

Lead researcher Dr David Pye, Director of Child Cancer Research Charity Kidscan at the University of Salford and lead on Chemistry programmes, said: “Polysaccharides (sugars) derived from mammals have long been a source of experimentation by cancer scientists but to date with inconclusive results. Certain applications have actually helped the cancer to grow.

“We opted to look at shellfish instead, not least because they are much cheaper and easier to source and well as being rich in sugars.

“They have a different structure from which we are starting to derive a number of potential drugs which with further refinement have the potential to work alongside more traditional treatments.”

He said extracting a mix of polysaccharides from cockles was a simple procedure and that the impact on tumours was encouraging.

“What is really significant about this is not so much the seafood source but that fact that sugars of this chemical structure work effectively at tolerable levels for children.

“A lot of children’s cancer drugs are watered down versions of adult ones, and they target and stop cell division. Clearly, as cell division is a central process of growth and development they hit children’s health disproportionately.

“The ‘Holy Grail’ of children’s cancer chemotherapy is to maximise the destruction of the cancer whilst minimising damage to normal cells and tissues. Sugars as therapeutic treatments should help to minimise harmful side-effects.”

Over the last 15 years only three new cancer treatments have been specifically designed and approved for children. At Kidscan Children’s Cancer Research we are dedicated to finding safer treatments for children diagnosed with cancer. We recognised that specific research into children’s cancer is needed to develop new treatments like Cockle-Chemo – because of the way children’s bodies and futures are impacted by aggressive treatments designed for adults.

To fund more research, donate today. Just £10 can fund an hour of research like that currently ongoing at the Salford Laboratories.


For more information and to discuss this in more detail please contact us on info@kidscan.org.uk

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