Protein combination found to kill cancer cells on contact
Called TRAIL, compounds winds itself through body
Researchers now say they believe they can dramatically reduce the cancer mortality rate with a protein combination that kills diseased cells on contact. Researchers at Cornell University in New York report that have isolated a protein, which goes by the acronym of TRAIL that causes metastasizing cancer cells to implode on contact.
"We believe the fluid forces, the pressures and forces of blood flow help give the signals to the cancer cells. So basically the fluid flow pushes the cells together, the cancer cell and the altered white cell," researcher Mike King says.
Mike King and his biomedical engineers have attached TRAIL to immune system white blood cells in order to circulate throughout the body, ready to destroy.
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"And so now, in the blood flow, all of your white blood cells become essentially cancer-killing machines. And whenever they bump into a cancer cell that makes its way in the circulation, that cancer cell will go on to die within a few hours," King says.
TRAIL leaves healthy cells alone, King adds. The said protein complex triggers apoptosis, or cellular suicide, in cancer cells. Apoptosis is what keeps normal cells from growing out of control.
King says his researchers have injected the protein complex into saline, where it was only 60 percent effective at killing cancer cells. Researchers say the reason was that there were no immune cells for the suicide protein to latch on to.
When the investigators then injected TRAIL into the circulating blood of mice with cancer, however, the therapy was nearly 100 percent effective in causing the metastasized cells to kill themselves.
"We believe the fluid forces, the pressures and forces of blood flow help give the signals to the cancer cells. So basically the fluid flow pushes the cells together, the cancer cell and the altered white cell," King said.
King says bioengineers are also working on a targeted treatment to kill cancer cells that have made their way into lymphatic fluid. He notes that it is also common for cancer to spread throughout the lymphatic system, which transports clear, colorless fluid containing white blood cells throughout the body.
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