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Researchers Accidentally Discover Breakthrough in Cancer Treatment

A very promising cure for leukemia has been discovered. Could this new cancer breakthrough be the ultimate cancer cure we’ve all been waiting for? Read on.

Cancer is one of those dreaded human diseases, because of the notion that death is almost at the doorstep. Even if there are treatment options such as chemotherapy or surgery that provides options and some success stories, it is undeniable that death or remission is still a very likely ending.

Given the difficulties in treating cancer, the medical community is very excited about the findings of researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI).

The researchers observed an antibody-induced “fratricide” in leukemia cells (cancer of the white blood cells), meaning that with introduction and manipulation of antibodies, the malignant leukemia cells get changed into Natural Killer (NK) cells that attack other leukemia cells. Although they sound dangerous, NK cells are actually one of our immune system’s most efficient and dedicated soldiers against diseases.

The results of the research has been jawdropping. The researchers saw a 15% decrease in the surrounding leukemia cells in vitro in just a span of 24 hours after exposure to induced NK cells.

The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California where it all started.

the times of san diego

Photo credit: The Times of San Diego

A Breakthrough by Accident

The discovery of the potential of leukemia cells killing off other leukemia cells is actually an accident. The original intent of the researchers in TSRI was to use antibodies to enhance growth factors in the bone marrow, to produce more cells such as red blood cells or white blood cells and platelets for patients with congenital blood disorders.

However, they noticed that prolonged exposure with the antibodies make different type of cells in the bone marrow. This lead TSRI senior investigator, Richard Lerner and his team to try if these antibodies can normalize malignant leukemia cells. But the team was rewarded so much more when it turned out that the ‘normalized’ leukemia cells started recognizing and attacking other leukemia cells.

One of the researchers under Lerner's team conducting the experiment

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Photo credit: San Diego Tribune

Advantages of Antibody-induced Cancer Cell “fratricide”

This phenomenon of eating up or killing similar cells is called ‘fratricide’. It is a major advantage in comparison to other cancer treatment that we have nowadays. Chemotherapeutic drugs and radiation therapy have a tendency of weakening the body’s immune system and subjecting the normal cells to high radiation eventually makes them mutate as well. With leukemia cell fratricide, the cells only attack other leukemia cells making it safe for the normal cells.

Electron micrograph of our red blood cells and white blood cells

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Photo credit: Shutterstock

Future Prospects

So far all the in vitro tests have been successful. Once the toxicity and human safety tests are cleared, the actual testing of the therapy to leukemia patients will be undertaken. These findings also inspire researchers that perhaps other types of cancer can be eliminated and cured using the same method.

They tried exposing the changed leukemia cells to malignant breast cancer cells but it did nothing. It is only effective against the same type of cancer cells. But researchers are optimistic that perhaps a different antibody can induce the same effect for different types of cancer cells, and perhaps even HIV-AIDS too. As of now, prospects are hopeful and it is a victory in favor of science and health.

To have some further understanding of the process you can watch the video explaining the research below:

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Credits: medicaldaily.com, news-medical.net

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