News Brief By Dominic Kleinknecht
Researchers at the University of Cambridge carried out a study in fruit flies and their findings contradict the common approach on fighting cancer. Instead of encouraging cell death (which is how current chemotherapy drugs work), the study suggest that preventing cell death might be effective at fighting cancer.
By genetically manipulating fruit flies to develop intestinal tumors, the researchers were able to show for the first time that tumors kill surrounding healthy cells while growing. While the cancer then propagates through the body (or 'metastasizes'), it competes with several organ systems and eventually causes organ failure. To retaliate the tumor killing spree, the researchers manipulated the healthy cells to resist the induced cell death (a process called apoptosis) by targeting genes involved in modulating the conserved apoptosis signal cascade and hence were able to contain the tumor and prevent its spread. Albeit this is counter to how current chemotherapy drugs work (drugs encourage cell death which might cause severe 'collateral damage' in healthy tissue), it represents a new approach on treating cancer and designing new drugs. In fact, some drugs that aim to exploit this approach are already in the clinical trial stage, but there is still a long way to go and further research is to be conducted.
University of Cambridge. "Stopping tumor cells killing surrounding tissue may provide clue to fighting cancer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 February 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160204122052.htm>.