Cancer is a terrifying disease that researchers around the globe are obsessively working to cure. Now scientists from the USA have made a breakthrough discovery related to how cells replicate in cancer patients, how to put a stop to the process, and even how to reverse a tumor.
What happens in a healthy organism is that cells are constantly replicating and replacing themselves with identical copies. A mechanism inside the body handles growth to make sure cells don’t overproduce.
When that mechanism malfunctions in an organ, the cells don’t stop growing, and they develop into tumors. Usual treatment involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy, depending on many factors. But in the future, a new kind of treatment might be available to cancer patients that will make the others obsolete.
Scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Florida have identified the cell’s microprocessor that controls cell growth. Called microRNA, this biological controller instructs the cells to stop dividing the moment they have replicated sufficiently, The Telegraph reports. When that happens, microRNA triggers the production of a protein called PLEKHA7, which then breaks the cell bonds and stops growth. In cancerous cells, that process doesn’t work properly.
The doctors were able to switch on cancer in cells by removing microRNAs and preventing them from producing the protein. Then they found they can reverse the process, stopping tumor growth and potentially changing cancer growth. All a patient would need would be an injections containing microRNAs that would reinforce the existing supply in cancer cells.
“We have now done this in very aggressive human cell lines from breast and bladder cancer,” Department of Cancer Biology professor Panos Anastasiadis said.
“These cells are already missing PLEKHA7. Restoring either PLEKHA7 levels or the levels of microRNAs in these cells turns them back to a benign state. We are now working on better delivery options.”
It’s not clear at this time when this promising treatment will be available to patients, as it’s likely that more research is needed to come up with treatment protocols for dealing with various types of cancer.
“Initial experiments in some aggressive types of cancer are indeed very promising,” he said. “It represents an unexpected new biology that provides the code, the software for turning off cancer.”