Scientists have recently discovered a possible new cancer treatment that could suppress tumor development without the side effects chemotherapy and radiotherapy cause.
A molecule called TIC10 has been identified by researchers from Pennsylvania State University. The molecule activates a protein that helps fight cancerous tumors.
Called TRAIL, the protein suppresses tumor development during immune surveillance.
Immune surveillance is a process the body uses to patrol the body for cancer cells.
This process does not work when a cancer begins progressing and growing uncontrollably.
Researchers say the key benefit of TIC10 is that it is already part of the immune system, and so would not produce toxic effects like chemotherapy and radiotherapy does.
Also, because the protein is small, it may be able to cross the blood-brain barrier, something which previously kept many treatments from reaching the brain.
“We didn’t actually anticipate that this molecule would be able to treat brain tumors - that was a pleasant surprise,” lead researcher Wafik El-Deiry said.
The molecule also activates the TRAIL gene in all cells, not just cancerous ones. Known as the “bystander effect,” the treatment results in nearby cells being given a boost to increase the number of cancer-killing TRAIL receptors.
The study is currently only being performed on mice, but Dr. El-Deiry is sure that the treatment would achieve similar results in humans.
“I was surprised we were able to do this. Using a small molecule to significantly boost and overcome limitations of the TRAIL pathway appears to be a promising way to address difficult to treat cancers using a safe mechanism already used in those with a normal effective immune system. The TRAIL pathway is a powerful way to suppress tumors but current approaches have limitations that we have been trying to overcome to unleash an effective and selective cancer therapy," he said.
Early trials of a synthetic version have proven to be safe in humans.