The researchers at Northwestern University recently found a "suicide molecule" that forces tumours to self-destruct and trigger a fail-safe mechanism that may protect from deadly disease cancer.
The researchers found that RNA suicide molecules can potentially be developed into a novel form of cancer therapy. Cancer cells treated with the RNA molecules never become resistant to them because they simultaneously eliminate multiple genes that cancer cells need for survival.
The lead researcher Marcus Peter said, “It’s like committing suicide by stabbing yourself, shooting yourself and jumping off a building all at the same time”.
The team discovered sequences in the human genome that when converted into small double-stranded RNA molecules trigger what they believe to be an ancient kill switch in cells to prevent cancer. He has been searching for the phantom molecules with this activity for eight years.
Peter found that a large number of these small RNAs derived from certain genes did not, as expected, only suppress the gene they were designed against. They also killed all cancer cells.The team discovered that these special sequences are distributed throughout the human genome, embedded in multiple genes as shown in the study in Cell Cycle.
To test this in a treatment situation, Peter collaborated with Dr. Shad Thaxton, associate professor of urology at Feinberg, to deliver the assassin molecules via nanoparticles to mice bearing human ovarian cancer. In the treated mice, the treatment strongly reduced the tumour growth with no toxicity to the mice, reports the study in Oncotarget.
Importantly, the tumours did not develop resistance to this form of cancer treatment. “The problem is cancer cells are so diverse that even though the drugs, designed to target single cancer-driving genes, often initially are effective, they eventually stop working and patients succumb to the disease,” Peter stated. Most of the advanced solid cancers such as the brain, lung, pancreatic or ovarian cancer have not seen an improvement in survival, said, Peter.