Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Florida were able to turn really aggressive cancer cells into normal benign cells by switching on a function that blocks normal cells from spreading excessively and building life-threatening tumors.
Researchers said that they tested the method on bladder, breast, and lung cancer cells and they plan to try on other types of cancer, as well. The method was described to be as simple as using the braking system on a speeding car.
The team was only able to test the breakthrough on human cells inside a laboratory, but study authors are optimistic that their newly found kill switch for cancer could lead to less invasive cancer treatments and actually cure cancer without chemo or surgery.
“We should be able to re-establish the brakes and restore normal cell function,”
noted Dr. Panos Anastasiadis, of Mayo Clinic’s Department for Cancer Biology.
Dr. Anastasiadis also said that the initial experiments showed ‘promising’ results. He likened the treatment to a software that ‘switches off’ cancer. In a healthy body, cells and tissue only multiply when there is a need to replace old or damaged material with a new one.
But in cancer, cells keep divining and reproducing endlessly which allows them to take over the healthy cells and generate malicious tumors that can kill the patient.
During their research, study authors found that tiny bio microprocessors called microRNAs tell cells when to replicate and when to stop reproducing. They do that by releasing a protein dubbed PLEKHA7 which breaks that glue that keep cells together. In cancer, however, this process is for some reason broken.
Researchers reported that healthy cells morphed into cancer cells whenever they tweaked microRNAs and instruct them not to release PLEKHA7 anymore. But the team also found that the process was reversible by injecting the cells with extra MicroRNAs.
Dr Anastasiadis explained that the method worked on some of the most aggressive cancer cells. The team only needed to restore the levels of PLEKHA7 or those of the bio microprocessors to see cancer cells turn to their normal state.
The team said that they were working on better methods of delivering the proteins or microRNAs to cancer tumors.
Researchers that were not involved in the study think that the findings provided an answer to a decades-long riddle. Doctors have been wondering for years why the body doesn’t naturally suppress cancer spread once healthy cells detect the harmful tissue.
The study was recently published in Nature Cell Biology.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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