The cure for cancer is the ultimate goal that every scientist strives for. The scientists have been trying to find the right cure since we began to understand what cancer really was. One of the main goals of every cancer treatment is preventing the growth of cancerous cells, but these treatments usually damage the healthy cells.
One ideal treatment would the one that turns cancerous cells into healthy ones, but this sounds too good to be true.
Although not discovered yet, an improved treatment for leukemia and other types of cancer could be on the horizon.
Cancer – The Timeless Enemy
Unfortunately, the 21st century has seen the rapid growth of cancer statistics. According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 590,000 people are likely to die from cancer and new 1.6 cases will be diagnosed.
In a normal functioning and healthy body, the cells divide and replace the ones that have died.
In the case of cancer, the cells start dividing relentlessly, and they spread out to the surrounding tissues. Over time, they start to behave abnormally, the old cells do not die, and the new ones keep dividing.
These unrelated cells can turn into cancerous tumors. However, not all cancers display themselves through tumors. One such example is blood cancer or leukemia.
Among other treatments, radiation and chemotherapy have proven really effective. However, they can cause many serious side effects. As we have mentioned before, they do prevent the growth of the malignant cells, but they also damage the surrounding healthy cells.
Nevertheless, there might be a way of turning the cancerous cells into antibodies which will further reduce the number of the malignant cells.
In 2015, the scientists from The Scripps Research Institute had conducted a groundbreaking study that gives hope to the cancer treatments.
A Promising Discovery
The scientific team was working on certain therapies for cell and blood disorders when they noticed unusual effects of the antibodies to marrow cells. For this reason, they exposed the bone marrow cells to antibodies, hoping they would induce the growth of new blood cells.
The results were positive, the antibodies have completed their task. This discovery led the study in a completely new direction.
Surprisingly, the antibodies have an unusual effect on the bone marrow cells. These cells have matured in a completely new cell forms, different from what it had been expected.
Here comes the question! Could this method transform malignant cells into healthy cells?
A Step Forward
The scientists decided to start a new study including 20 growth-activating antibodies on acute leukemia took from human patients. It turned out that the antibodies had an incredible impact on leukemia cells.
When exposed to leukemia cells, these antibodies matured and converted into vital cells called dendritic cells.
Although a success on its own, the researchers pushed even further. They found that the longer the antibodies were exposed, the more the dendritic cells matured. The result was a group of cells that closely resembled NK cells (natural killer). These cells are responsible for attacking the dangerous pathogens and tumors.
Is Leukemia Treatment on The Horizon?
If compared with the other cancer treatments, this groundbreaking discovery is crucial for the leukemia treatment because both leukemia and this treatment function in the same way, within the body.
This treatment persists due to the rapid increase of certain cells central to leukemia – the cancer stem cells. These cells have the ability to maintain while multiplying into thousands of cancerous cells. Although the cells resulting from this proliferation can’t produce further cells, they are highly potent and abundant.
The current treatments for leukemia such as radiation, chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants are not able to identify and destroy all the cancer stem cells.
These cancer stem cells are strong enough to resist these treatments. Those cells which are not destroyed completely, multiply again and cause a relapse of leukemia. That’s why survival rate in leukemia rarely takes less than 5 years.
The antibodies’ ability to recognize the cancer stem cells, combined with radiation, chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants can create a highly effective treatment for leukemia. In this way, the survival rate will increase, and this may turn into a widely-accepted cure.
The scientists have found another surprising discovery. The transformed NK cells were able to remove 15% of the other leukemia cells in just 24hours, without any damage to the surrounding cells.
This points out that the NK cells attack cells of their own kind.
The scientist point out some benefits of this treatment:
- This treatment is only based on antibodies and using them is a very easy process.
- It is a highly-focused treatment because the NK cells attack cells of their own kind. However, it reduces the risk of serious side effects which result from radiation and chemotherapy.
- This treatment can not only reduce the number of the cancerous cells, but it can wipe them out.
Currently, the scientists are in talks with pharmaceutical companies to test this treatment on humans after the following the toxicity tests.