U.S. researchers have identified a molecule, known as TIC10, which activates protein that helps fight disease
The protein, called TRAIL, helps immune system suppress tumour development
Because protein is part of immune system, it is not toxic to the body like chemotherapy or radiotherapy
PUBLISHED: 15:42 GMT, 8 February 2013 | UPDATED: 15:47 GMT, 8 February 2013
Scientists have made a key breakthrough in discovering how the body can destroy cancerous tumours itself.
Researchers from Pennsylvania State University have identified a molecule, known as TIC10, which activates a protein that helps fight the disease.
The protein, called TRAIL, suppresses tumour development during immune surveillance, the immune system’s process of patrolling the body for cancer cells.
A key benefit of using TRAIL is that it uses the immune system, so it is not toxic to the body like chemotherapy or radiotherapy (pictured)
This process is lost during cancer progression, which leads to uncontrolled growth and spread of tumours.
The key benefit of using TRAIL (tumour-necrosis-factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand) as a way to fight cancer is that it is already part of the immune system so it is not toxic to the body like chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Furthermore, the small size of TIC10 also makes it more effective than past discoveries because it can cross the blood-brain barrier, which separates the main circulatory system from the brain.
This barrier can prevent cancer treatments from entering the brain, thereby hindering the action of drugs for brain tumours.
‘We didn’t actually anticipate that this molecule would be able to treat brain tumours – that was a pleasant surprise,’ said lead researcher Wafik El-Deiry, an oncologist at Pennsylvania State University.
Another positive is that TIC10 does not just activate the TRAIL gene in cancerous cells, but also in healthy ones. This is known as the ‘bystander effect’ – i.e. where cells near cancerous cells are also killed.
Nearby healthy cells are also given a boost to increase the number of cancer-killing TRAIL receptors on their cell surface.
The small size of TIC10 also means it can cross the blood-brain barrier, which many anti-cancer drugs cannot do, making it effective at targeting brain cancer cells (pictured)