Israeli Researcher Discovers Cell-Destroying Protein That May Help Eradicate Cancer
"Killing these cancer stem cells is the holy grail of cancer treatments and therefore holds promise for complete eradication of cancer," says Dr. Sarit Larisch of the University of Haifa.
These are not words pronounced lightly; instead, they follow more than a decade of research that could give hope to cancer patients worldwide. Along with her colleagues, Larisch has established the basis for developing a new, more effective treatment for cancer using a protein called ARTS.
ARTS is a protein, which along with a number of other proteins and enzymes, regulates what is known as apoptosis. Apoptosis is the process of programmed cell death which occurs when a cell is damaged, mutated or no longer functional. ARTS acts as a trigger for cell death, its presence allowing for enzymes called caspases to destroy the non-functional cell.
But this process is missing in cancer cells.
Destroying cancer cells using the natural process of self-destruction.
Larischâ€™s research shows that unlike normal cells, cancer cells have an absence of the ARTS protein. "Without the ARTS protein, cells canâ€™t be triggered to self-destruct. As a result cancer cells can survive and develop into a tumor," she tells NoCamels.
"We have found that ARTS is lost in many types of cancers. Therefore, determining levels of ARTS in blood could provide a marker to alert to the possibility of developing certain types of cancers." Consequently, Dr. Larisch believes that small molecules that mimic ARTS could restore the ability of cancer cells to be killed selectively using the natural process of apoptosis.
"ARTS-based cancer drugs could potentially change the treatment method of cancer worldwide," Larisch tells NoCamels. "We have found that ARTS is particularly important for the death of defective stem cells. We therefore believe that ARTS-based drugs will specifically eliminate cancer stem cells (the cells that drive the growth of a tumor and are often resistant to chemotherapy or radiotherapy)."
The therapy would also minimize common side-effects of conventional cancer treatment. "All currently available cancer drugs have unwanted side effects because they harm normal cells as well. In contrast, ARTS-based cancer drugs should only kill cancer cells because they act by specifically correcting the defect in their cell suicide program, caused by the loss of ARTS," says Larisch.
Read more at NoCamels.
Cancer research image via Shutterstock.