It's a new drug that kills cancer stems cells without the grueling side effects of conventional cancer treatments.

McMaster researchers are hopeful patients with leukemia and breast cancer will benefit from this discovery.

The drug, thioridazine, is unlike chemotherapy and radiation in that it seems to have no effect on normal stem cells. What's even better, McMaster University Dr. Mick Bhatia says, is that health issues associated with traditional cancer treatments such as hair loss, nausea and a severely weakened immune system, seem to be eliminated with this drug.

"There are very few drugs that are very specific to cancer stem cells," Bhatia explained. "It's relatively novel. It's a significant advancement."

Bhatia says thioridazine is currently being used on Parkinson's and schizophrenia patients. He believes human clinical trials will move swiftly because of its use with these diseases.

Clinical trials will first focus on patients with acute myeloid leukemia whose disease has relapsed after chemotherapy.

 "It's a very small group of people," Bhatia said, but he is hopeful this is just the beginning of a real breakthrough in cancer treatment.