Scientists say they have identified a ‘kill switch’ that triggers the death of cancer cells in a major breakthrough.
Researchers at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center in Sacramento, California, believe they have discovered a protein on a receptor that can “program” cancer cells to die, describing it as a “potential one-two punch against tumours”.
“CD95 receptors, also known as Fas, are called death receptors. These protein receptors reside on cell membranes. When activated, they release a signal that causes the cells to self-destruct,” the cancer center said in a statement.
The findings were laid out in a detailed study published in the journal Cell Death & Differentiation in October.
CAR T-cell therapy involves collecting T cells from a patient’s blood and then genetically programming them in a laboratory to produce specific receptors called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs).
These modified cells are then administered back into the patients’ bloodstream intravenously.
“We have found the most critical epitope for cytotoxic Fas signaling, as well as CAR T-cell bystander anti-tumor function,” said Jogender Tushir-Singh, an associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and senior author of the study.
Currently, the treatment – which costs $500,000 or more, has only shown efficacy against leukemia and other blood cancers, but has shown “meagre success in the treatment of solid tumors such as breast, lung, and bowel cancer.
“Despite being decently successful in liquid tumors, such as leukemia spectrum cancers, long-term remission remains the biggest challenge for CAR T-cell therapies,” Tushir-Singh told Fox News.
But doctors believe the treatment could eventually be used to destroy solid tumors.
“Modulating Fas may also extend the benefits of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy to solid tumors like ovarian cancer,” the statement reads.
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“Previous efforts to target this receptor have been unsuccessful. But now that we’ve identified this epitope, there could be a therapeutic path forward to target Fas in tumors,” Tushir-Singh added.
No CD95-boosting drugs have made it into clinical trials thus far.
But Tushir-Singh says he is optimistic for the future of cancer treatments.
“Due to the advent of cancer immunotherapy and other targeted therapies, cancer rates overall in the past decades have decreased significantly,” he said.
“I read every day the outstanding research that is happening in the U.S. to beat cancer. People should stay positive.”
He added, “The next breakthrough is just one experiment away.”
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