CANCER BREAKTHROUGH: New process which can trigger death of cancer cells DISCOVERED

THE search for a cancer cure has take a major leap forward after experts discovered a process to trigger the death of cancer cells could be more effective than current methods.

The new method of killing cancer cells – called Caspase Independent Cell Death (CICD), led to the complete eradication of tumours in experimental models.

Currently most anti-cancer therapies, which include chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy, work by killing cancer cells through a process called apoptosis.


This process activates proteins called caspases, leading to cell death.

But in apoptosis, therapies often fail to kill all cancer cells, leading to disease recurrence, and can also have unwanted side effects that may even promote cancer.

Scientists at the University of Glasgow wanted to develop a way to improve therapy that induces cancer cell killing while also making sure to limit unwanted toxicity.

“Our research found that triggering Caspase-Independent Cell Death (CICD), but not apoptosis, often led to complete tumour regression,” said Dr Stephen Tait, Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, Institute of Cancer Sciences.

“Especially under conditions of partial therapeutic response, as our experiments mimic, our data suggests that triggering tumour-specific CICD, rather than apoptosis, may be a more effective way to treat cancer.”

Unlike apoptosis, which is a silent form of cell death, when cancer cells die through CICD, they alert the immune system through the release of inflammatory proteins.

The immune system can then attack the remaining tumour cells that evaded initial therapy-induced death.

The researchers used bowel cancer cells grown in the lab to show the advantage of killing cancer cells via CICD. Experts also said the benefits could work with other types of cancer.

He added: “In essence, this mechanism has the potential to dramatically improve the effectiveness of anti–cancer therapy and reduce unwanted toxicity.

“Taking into consideration our findings, we propose that engaging CICD as a means of anti-cancer therapy warrants further investigation.”

Dr Justine Alford, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information officer, said: “Although many cancer treatments work by triggering apoptosis, that method sometimes fails to finish the job and instead may lead to the tumour becoming harder to treat.

“This new research suggests there could be a better way to kill cancer cells which, as an added bonus, also activates the immune system.

“Now scientists need to investigate this idea further and, if further studies confirm it is effective, develop ways to trigger this particular route of cell death in humans.”

The paper was majority funded by Cancer Research UK.

The study was published in the journal Nature Cell Biology.

This comes after experts revealed proton beam therapy will be available in the UK every year.


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