Zee Media Bureau/Salome Phelamei
New York: In a major breakthrough in the fight against cancer, researchers at Cornell University claimed to have isolated a protein that causes metastasized tumors, which is the major cause of cancer-related deaths.
The study, “TRAIL-Coated Leukocytes that Kill Cancer Cells in the Circulation,” was published online last week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The team, led by Michael King, Cornell professor of biomedical engineering Michael King, has isolated a protein that causes metastasized tumors to implode at contact.
“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,” said Michael King.
King and his team combined the protein, Tumor Necrosis Factor Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand (or TRAIL) with an adhesive protein (E-selectin) and injected into the blood stream to latch onto white blood cells. As cancer cells begin to metasize and spread through the blood stream, the TRAIL protein infects them and causes the cancer cell to kill itself.
In the laboratory, the team injected TRAIL into the circulating blood of mice with cancer and produced a 100% success rate in killing the cancer.
According to the scientists, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are effective at treating primary tumors, but their efficacy lessens when the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. However, the discovery of the protein TRAIL could work as a major step in treating cancer.