Possible Off Switch for Cancer
We have read books with characters saying goodbye to their loved ones who have cancer. We have mourn the deaths of relatives and friends who suffered from such. We have seen patients in hospitals suffering and dying. All because of cancer.
Cancer. Thousands are suffering from it. Many dread it. Many hate it. When one has cancer, it feels like the rest of the world is collapsing. Your days become numbered, you feel like you can never go back to your normal life again. Or is it really the case? Is it possible for someone who has cancer to go back to normal? From being a cancer patient, can you become cancer free in just a snap of the fingers? Can you turn cancer off like a switch?
New discovery stopping cancer in its tracks
A group of researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, have made a discovery that could be a kill switch for cancer. They have found a way to reprogram mutating cancer cells back to normal, healthy cells.
This finding, published in the journal Nature Cell Biology, represents “an unexpected new biology that provides the code, the software for turning off cancer,” says Panos Anastasiadis, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Cancer Biology and the study’s senior investigator.
The team was studying the role of adhesion proteins in cells and has been to have experimented with human cells in the laboratory that were affected with breast, lung and bladder cancer.
Anastasiadis’ primary focus was on the p120 catenin protein and long held hypothesis on it being a major player in the suppressor of tumors. The team found that p120, along with another adhesion protein, E-cadherin, actually promoted cancer growth. “That led us to believe that these molecules have two faces — a good one, maintaining the normal behavior of the cells, and a bad one that drives tumorigenesis,” he said.
The discovery is said to be “an unexpected new biology that provides the code, the software for turning off cancer” that would be a partner to the P120 protein, called PLEKHA7. Specifically, when introduced to tumors, PLEKHA7 was able to “turn off” the cancerous cells’ ability to replicate and return it to a benign state. In other words, it stopped the cancer in its tracks.
How it works
Normal, healthy cells are controlled by a sort of biological microprocessor known as micro RNAs, which tell the cells to stop replicating when they have reproduced enough. Cancer is caused by a cell’s inability to stop replicating itself, and ultimately grows into a cluster of cells known commonly as a tumor.
Anastasiadis’ team found that PLEKHA7 was a vital factor in stopping the replication of cells, but that it wasn’t present in the cancerous cells. By reintroducing PLEKHA7, what were once raging cancerous cells returned to normal.
This was done by injecting PLEKHA7 directly into the cells, under a controlled lab test. According to Anastasiadis, they still need to work on “better delivery options,” as these tests were done on human cells in a lab. They did find success, however, in stopping the growth in two very aggressive forms of cancer: breast and bladder. Furthermore, while this isn’t being tested on humans yet, it signifies a huge step forward in understanding the nature of cancer and we can cure it.
The team is now working on better opportunities for delivering the molecules. In the future, an injection could be established that sends the micro RNA directly into cells or tumors, without the need for tough chemotherapy or additional surgery methods.