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New drug combination causes cancer cells to 'self-destruct'

By Greta McClain     Nov 4, 2014 in Science
Liverpool - Researchers in the United Kingdom have discovered a drug combination that triggers a self-destruct mechanism in lung cancer cells.
In a study published by the Cancer Research UK, researchers say a combination of two drugs, TRAIL and a CDK9 inhibitor known as SNS-032, modified the molecular structure of the suicide process in lung cancer cells. This modification caused the lung cancer cells to self-destruct.
When normal cells degenerate to the point they cannot perform necessary functions, they trigger a process that causes the cell to self-destruct. Cancer cells however do not have an automatic self-destruct mechanism. Instead, the cells continue to grow, resulting in cancerous tumors. Researchers believe this new discovery will result in a treatment that causes the cancer cells to self-destruct, while leaving healthy, non-cancerous cells unharmed.
According to the study, researchers used lung cancer cells from mice to test drug combinations. When the cancer drugs SNS-032 and TRAIL are combined together, the self-destruct process known as apoptosis was triggered in the cancer cells.
Nell Barrie, a senior science information manager with the Cancer Researcher UK, told the Mirror:
"Understanding and targeting these processes will move us closer to our goal of three out of four people beating cancer within the next 20 years
According to Medical Daily, lung cancer is the deadliest form of cancer, claiming the lives of approximately 1.6 million people worldwide every year. Lung cancer is so lethal due to the fact it is difficult to detect. This is because patients often times do not exhibit any symptoms until the cancer has spread to the point is it nearly impossible to treat effectively. Researchers hope that by targeting these deadly cancer cells, the new drug combination will eliminate the cancerous cells without having to remove large portions of the affected lung, and without damaging health cells.
Professor Henning Walczak, lead researcher from the UCL Cancer Institute, explained the significance of the discovery, saying:
"Igniting the fuse that causes lung cancer cells to self-destruct could pave the way to a completely new treatment approach – and leave healthy cells unharmed. The next step of our work will see how this approach works in other cancer types, and we hope it could ultimately lead to testing this technique in trials to see if it can help patients."
More about Cancer, Lung cancer, Cancer treatment, Cancer cells, selfdestruct
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