Danish discovery raises hopes worldwide
LONDON: Researchers working on a vaccine against malaria have found a potential breakthrough cure for cancer.
Danish scientists discovered that a malaria protein armed with a toxin destroyed a wide range of cancer cells, from brain tumors to leukemia. They tested the protein against thousands of samples and found it was effective in 90 percent of the cases.
“By conducting tests on mice, we have been able to show that the combination of the protein and toxin kill the cancer cells,” Mads Daugaard, a Danish researcher at the University of British Columbia in Canada said in a statement.
The discovery stems from research into a malaria vaccine for pregnant women. The disease poses a particular threat because it attacks the placenta. Danish researchers in Copenhagen and British Columbia discovered that the carbohydrate that the malaria parasite attaches itself to in the placenta is also present in cancer cells. The carbohydrate promotes growth.
The researchers stitched a toxin to the protein which then sought out cancer cells and attached itself just as the protein does with placenta. The toxin was released within the tumor and proceeded to destroy it.
The discovery was published in the journal Cancer Cell.
“For decades, scientists have been searching for similarities between the growth of a placenta and a tumor,” Ali Salanti from the University of Copenhagen said in a statement. “The placenta is an organ, which within a few months grows from only few cells into an organ weighing approximately two pounds, and it provides the embryo with oxygen and nourishment in a relatively foreign environment. In a manner of speaking, tumors do much the same, they grow aggressively in a relatively foreign environment.”
Salanti said in an email that the malaria protein was formed in the laboratory and carried no risk of infecting patients with malaria.
They hope to conduct the first clinical trial in four years.
“The biggest questions are whether it’ll work in the human body and if the human body can tolerate the doses needed without developing side effects,” Salanti said in a statement. “But we’re optimistic because the protein appears to only attach itself to a carbohydrate that is only found in the placenta and in cancer tumors in humans.
Source: The Oregonian
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