Molecule could kill any cancer cell

Posted on 2017-10-25

Researchers have found RNA molecules in our bodies capable of flicking on a kill switch in cancer cells.

Lead study author Marcus Peter said in a statement published via the Northwestern University website, “It’s like committing suicide by stabbing yourself, shooting yourself and jumping off a building all at the same time”.

Some sequences in the genome were discovered to be capable of killing cancer cells outright when converted into a double strand RNA molecule. It is speculated that this could have been a defence against the growth of cancers before the adaptive immune system evolved.

Peter hypothesize that life must have had a "Fail-Safe" to prevent cancerous growth from occurring millions of years ago before we developed a complex immune system.

The purpose of these small RNA molecules is to suppress over-active gene activity, removing all sequences for survival in a cell. Finding these cells proved difficult as they are only observable at the precise moment that the cell became cancerous.

A mouse model was used to test RNA's capability as an alternative treatment for cancer. To test whether this mechanism could be used as a cancer treatment. Nanoparticles were used to administer the molecules to mice bearing human ovarian cancer. The growth of tumours slowed and did not develop a resistant to the treatment.

Immunotherapy has proven an effective, refresh new approach to tackling cancer, although it only works well for a selected few cancers. Peter's approach takes a natural system from the body much like immunotherapy but could work for a broad range of cancers.

“Our research may be tapping into one of nature’s original kill switches, and we hope the impact will affect many cancers,” said Peter. “Our findings could be disruptive.”

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