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article imageCancer killing protein examined

By Tim Sandle     Jan 19, 2014 in Science
Cornell University biomedical engineers have demonstrated the destruction of metastasizing cancer cells traveling throughout the bloodstream. This has been achieved by attaching a cancer-killer protein to white blood cells.
To examine the effectiveness of a protein cancer-killer, researchers injected human blood samples, and later mice, with two proteins: E-selectin (an adhesive) and TRAIL (Tumor Necrosis Factor Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand). The TRAIL protein joined together with the E-selectin protein stick to leukocytes — white blood cells — ubiquitous in the bloodstream. When a cancer cell comes into contact with TRAIL, which becomes unavoidable in the chaotic blood flow, the cancer cell essentially kills itself.
When treating cancer cells, Policy Mic notes, with the proteins in saline, they found a 60 percent success rate in killing the cancer cells. In normal laboratory conditions, the saline lacks white blood cells to serve as a carrier for the adhesive and killer proteins. Once the proteins were added to flowing blood, which models forces, mixing and other human-body conditions, however, the success rate in killing the cancer cells jumped to nearly 100 percent.
Discussing the results, Michael King, Cornell professor of biomedical engineering and the study’s senior author, is quoted by Lab Manager magazine as saying: "These circulating cancer cells are doomed. About 90 percent of cancer deaths are related to metastases, but now we’ve found a way to dispatch an army of killer white blood cells that cause apoptosis – the cancer cell’s own death – obliterating them from the bloodstream. When surrounded by these guys, it becomes nearly impossible for the cancer cell to escape."
It should be noted that studies are at an early stage, and killing cells in a laboratory does not mean that the same effects will be seen in the human body.
The results of the trail have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in a paper titled "TRAIL-Coated Leukocytes that Kill Cancer Cells in the Circulation."
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