The research is just one of a number of studies into Aurora inhibitors. At the last count there were more than 10 companies pursuing Aurora cancer programmes, illustrating its potential in treating certain forms of cancer.
Aurora kinases are often overexpressed in tumours, and one possible research route to inhibiting their function could be to interfere with their ability to interact with their co-activating proteins or binding partners, such as by targeting the interaction between survivin and Aurora-B to disrupt the function of this complex.
Researchers from the University of Manchester have been studying a chemical that blocks, or inhibits, the catalytic actions of Aurora B and has proven very effective at killing cancer cells in cultures grown in the laboratory.
The University of Manchester team has been working on the Aurora B inhibitor in collaboration with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
Early clinical trials of the Aurora-B drug's toxicity reported no major adverse effects to patients being reported. The next stage of trials to test its effectiveness is likely to start shortly.
"The first compounds were designed to inhibit a related enzyme called Aurora A," said Dr Stephen Taylor, who is leading the research in Manchester's Faculty of Life Sciences.
"But our research has shown that inhibiting Aurora B is a far more successful method of killing cancer cells and we have been strongly encouraged by these latest results."
The group published an earlier paper in 2003 that highlighted the potential success of targeting Aurora B. These latest findings further strengthen the team's belief that Aurora B inhibition is the preferred route to an effective cancer therapy
"Auroras have attracted worldwide attention but no one has been entirely sure which strategy to follow," said Taylor.
"Our paper clearly demonstrates that targeting Aurora B is a highly attractive avenue to pursue, although inhibition of Aurora A may still have some merits as a potential therapy."
Current cancer drugs, while effective, are also toxic. By contrast, the toxic effects of Aurora inhibitors have been relatively mild and so could provide a revolutionary new way to treat cancer in the future.
Aurora A and B are a type of enzyme known as protein kinases; they modify other proteins by chemically adding phosphate groups to them. In cancer, both these protein kinases are 'overexpressed'.
The research is published in the latest edition of the Journal of Cell Science.