Research to discover “killing fields” for cancer cells is in high gear. Latest efforts to find ways to destroy cancer cells comes from laboratories at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland. The studies we refer to focus on combining genetic and biochemical components. Here the idea is to increase the presence of a tumor-suppressing protein ( called p53BP1) that, in turn, leads cancer cells to self-destruct. What the protein does is weaken cancer cells, leaving them susceptible to existing cancer-fighting drugs.
Now, the idea is to take the lab findings and test result in animal models, and if the findings hold up in animal studies, they could hold the promise of increasing the effectiveness of radiation and chemotherapy in shrinking—even eliminating tumors. ( Details can be found in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Nov 24, 2014 issue. )
The researchers had been trying to figure out how to repair breaks in DNA strands. Breaks that may have been caused by radiation, chemical agents or bodily functions. That’s when they happened upon a surprising circumstance: they discovered a way to increase the protein p53BP1. Next came the idea that increasing this protein intentionally could result into weaking cancer cells. A Eureka moment.
The lead scientist, Dr. Upiwei Zhang, assistant professor of pharmacology at Case Western, said, “ Our discovery one day could lead to a gene therapy where extra amounts of the 53BP1 protein will be generated to make cancer cells more vulnerable to cancer treatment. He explained that the idea is to have the proteins trick the cancer cells to go to a fork in the road and take the wrong turn—one that would lead to their destruction. In layman’s language professor Zhang says ultimately we would eventually want to build up the number of these 53BP1 proteins in patients to make their cancer cells vulnerable to radiation therapy and chemotherapy drugs.