From the moment scientists discovered what cancer actually was they have been trying to find a cure. The cure against cancer is something that all want to find but now even new treatments are needed by the patients. But many treatments against cancer have unbearable side effects and many patients refuse these treatments.
The goal of these treatments is to stop the cancer cells growth and destroying them is something even more desirable. The negative side of these treatments is that they also damage the healthy cells.
The ultimate goal is a treatment which will transform the cancer cells into antibodies which will attack the other malignant cells. This sounds great and unbelievable. The scientists from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) published an amazing study on new and powerful therapy which can be beneficial.
An Accidental Discovery
The laboratory team discovered some unusual effects of antibodies on marrow cells during their work on treatments for certain immune cells or blood factor deficiencies. They wanted to find antibodies which will trigger growth-factor receptors on immature bone marrow cells, that is, to find antibodies which will make these cells to grow into specific blood cell types.
Some of the antibodies that were found as activators of bone marrow cell-receptors, had surprising effects on the cells- noticed the researchers. Some of the cells transformed into something completely different from what they were thought, as neural cells. The researchers started asking themselves if this method could be used to change the cancerous marrow cells (leukemia cells) into healthy cells.
Lita Annenberg Hazen, professor of Immunochemistry at TSRI and Richard A. Lerner, institute professor made a team with some colleagues together with the first author Kyungmoo Yea, an assistant professor of cellular and molecular biology at TSRI. They took acute myeloid leukemia cells from human patients and tested 20 of the lately revealed receptor-activating antibodies on the leukemia cells. The results showed that one of the antibodies had amazing effect on the cancer cells.
Thrombopoietin (TPO) receptor is found in the majority of acute myeloid leukemia cells and this receptor is activated in marrow cells. The cells developed into blood-platelet-producing cells (megakaryocytes) when the antibody was inserted into healthy marrow cells. On the other hand when the antibody was inserted in acute myeloid leukemia cells they transformed into dendritic cells, very important cells for the immune system.
This discovery was a great success as the cancerous cells were transformed into healthy, beneficial cells for the immune system. The study went further and discovered that if antibodies and other regulated conditions were acting longer, the dendritic cells matured even more. A group of cells was formed finally which were quite similar to natural killer (NK) cells. These cells are made to attack the potentially dangerous pathogens and tumors as they are defenders of the immune system
“That antibody could have turned those acute myeloid leukemia cells into a lot of other cell types, but somehow we were lucky enough to get NK cells,” stated Lerner.
The Nk cells were observed through electron microscopy and it was fount ha they possess several unique characteristics. These cells contain extending tendrils that succeeded in finding their way through the outer membranes of close -by leukemia cell – the cells which would be still there if the antibody was not inserted. The lab test showed that a great number of NK cells turned against their former brethren but a small number of NK cells defeated about 15 percent of the nearby leukemic cells in 24 hours only.
The purely fratricidal nature of the NK cells was noted by the researchers. They didn’t attack the unrelated breast cancer cells in great number as it was the case with related leukemia cells. The researchers didn’t find out why NK cells act in this way but there is a chance that there are other undiscovered antibodies which will transform cancerous cells into NK cells.
This type of therapy is named “fratricidins,” by the Lerner and he claims that it has several advantages. These antibodies would be beneficial with little or no adjustments and high specificity of the NK cells will reduce the chance of healthy cells being damaged. That is why the “fratricidins” treatment is safer than the traditional treatments, like chemotherapy.
Theoretically every cancer cell can be transformed so the final goal is to find a treatment which will not only reduce the cancer cells, but to eliminate them completely.
“It’s a totally new approach to cancer, and we’re working to test it in human patients as soon as possible,” Lerner said. “We’re in discussions with pharmaceutical companies to take this straight into humans after the appropriate preclinical toxicity studies.”