The traditional methods of treating cancer have included chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. More recently, promising drugs that use the body’s immune system to attack tumors have started to find their way into a clinical setting. ZME Science reports that some researchers at the Mayo Clinic may have found the ultimate cancer therapy. They have learned to turn the most aggressive breast, lung and bladder cancers back into normal cells, stopping the excessive growth that is a characteristic of the disease.
The scientists have stopped cancer by instructing the cells to start producing a protein called PLEKHA7. In normal cells, this protein is produced by microRNAs to regulate cell growth. In cancer cells, the protein is no longer produced.
The therapy works very well in the lab. Now the trick is to see if it will work in a living human body. The delivery system would have to be through gene therapy. The problem is that scientists have an imperfect understanding about how such therapy would interact with the human genome. The therapy could cure cancer, but at the cost of terrible, unexpected side effects that might make the cure worse than the disease.
Clearly these facts mean that the therapy is years away from being in a clinical setting. However, it holds out a promise of not just a treatment that controls cancer or places it in remission. If the problems associated with gene therapy can be solved, the ability to turn switch cancer cells back into normal cells may represent the long sought after but elusive cure for cancer.
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