Health

New research finds a way for our body to self destroy cancer

The method builds on an ancient mechanism that is built right into every cell in our body.

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New research, from Northwestern University Studies, may have found that embedded in every cell in the body there is a kill code that can cause cells to self-destruct if it senses that it is becoming cancerous.

“It’s like committing suicide by stabbing yourself, shooting yourself and jumping off a building all at the same time. You cannot survive,” said lead author Marcus E. Peter, a professor of cancer metabolism at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

A study published in 2017 in eLife to find out if natural mechanisms could be developed to protect multicellular organisms from cancer, describes the discovery of the assassin molecules present in multiple human genes. Follow-up studies in 2018 further investigated how the mechanism worked.

“Ever since life became multicellular, which could be more than two billion years ago, it had to deal with preventing or fighting cancer,” Peter says. “So nature must have developed a failsafe mechanism to prevent cancer or fight it the moment it forms. Otherwise, we wouldn’t still be here.”

Peter and his research team long theorized that such a mechanism must exist, and for eight long years searched for it until they succeeded.

“My goal was not to come up with a new artificial toxic substance. I wanted to follow nature’s lead,” he said. “I want to utilize a mechanism that nature developed.”

“We knew they would be very hard to find,” Peter said. “The kill mechanism would only be active in a single cell the moment it becomes cancerous. It was a needle in a haystack.”

Through a complicated method and years of detective work, Peter and his team found the special sequences that act as highly trained super assassins that kill cancer cells by eliminating the genes required for cell survival.

Peter says that cancer scientists need to listen to nature more. He gives the example of immune therapy, which has been a success because it’s aimed at activating an anticancer mechanism that evolution developed. Unfortunately, only a few cancers respond to immune therapy and even fewer patients with these cancers benefit, he says.

“Our research may be tapping into one of nature’s original kill switches, and we hope the impact will affect many cancers,” he says. “Our findings could be disruptive.”

While the results are incredibly impressive, it is years away before it can be used in people for cancer treatment. But Peters is hopeful that this natural trigger can be harnessed for an effective natural cancer treatment.

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