Did you know that healthy breast cells naturally protect themselves from cancer?
Sounds simple enough, and by exploiting this innate ability, a new study introduces a homegrown way to stop cancer cell growth without damaging normal cells.
Healthy people produce up to 1,000 abnormal cells every day – often right in the face of normal cells. Luckily, our tumor surveillance system gets rid of these cancer-prone cells before they become a problem.
California researchers discovered that healthy breasts produce a small protein called interleukin-25 (IL-25). These actively seek out those cancer-prone cells and instruct them to self-destruct – just another one of our innate defense mechanisms.
- They identified several molecules produced by normal breast cells that fight cancer, with the most powerful being IL-25.
- They injected the protein into mice with human breast tumors, and one month later, these tumors were three-times smaller than those in mice injected with a placebo.
- Using human breast cells grown in a culture, they found that cancer cells die off in the presence of IL-25 because those cells have a specific receptor that normal cells don’t.
- They looked at hundreds of tumors from breast cancer patients and found that almost all of the malignant cells displayed those specific IL-25 receptors not found on healthy ones.
- The IL-25 receptor is docked on the surface of malignant breast cancer cells and signals ‘destroy me’ to IL-25. This self-destruction process allows IL-25 to kill cancer cells without affecting the growth of healthy ones.
Study researcher Saori Furuta of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Irvine, hopes that companies will take interest in translating these lab findings into usable IL-25 versions that are testable in people as an anticancer drug.
The study was published in Science Translational Medicine last week.
Image: human breast cells / Sun-Young Moonlee and Mina J. Bissell
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com