Breakthrough In Cancer Research Could Lead To New Effective Treatments

Posted: Mar 5 2016, 8:44am CST | by , Updated: Mar 6 2016, 8:40pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

Breakthrough in Cancr Research Could Lead to New Effective Treatments
Credit: University College London (UCL)

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UCL researchers have made a groundbreaking discovery in understanding the genetic makeup of cancer cells. This will help develop personalized and improved treatments for cancer.

Scientists at UCL have made a major breakthrough in cancer research that could possibly lead to better and personalized treatments in future.

Many previous studies have attempted to find out how to prevent cancer from spreading to a body but not how to eliminate it altogether. In the latest study, researchers have been able to understand the genetic makeup of tumors and have identified what they call “Achilles’ heel” of cancer.

Researchers analyzed the data from hundreds of skin and lung cancer patients from many other studies and found that even though cancer cells grow and spread throughout the body, the cancer cells within each patient can have unique mutations.

According to research, a substance, known as antigen, reflects the very earliest mutations in the disease and is found in all tumor cells, rather than the subsets. Researchers believe these tumor cells can be isolated and fought off by certain immune cells called T-cells.

The concept can be explained in this way. The cancer cells of a patient start off with a same tree trunk but then grow different kind of branches. New research suggests that some immune cells can cut the tree at the trunk rather than just removing its branches.

This groundbreaking discovery can pave the way for more advanced and improved immunotherapies, which will be tailored to individual patients. These therapies will tell the immune system of patients how to recognize and attack cancerous cells.

“The body’s immune system acts as the police trying to tackle cancer, the criminals. Genetically diverse tumors are like a gang of hoodlums involved in different crimes - from robbery to smuggling. And the immune system struggles to keep on top of the cancer - just as it's difficult for police when there's so much going on,” said Dr Sergio Quezada, one of the researchers involved in the study.

“Our research shows that instead of aimlessly chasing crimes in different neighborhoods, we can give the police the information they need to the kingpin at the root of all organized crimes – or the weak spot in a patient’s tumor – to wipe out the problem for good.”

“This opens up a way to look at individual patient’s tumor and profile all the antigen variations to figure out the best ways for immunotherapy treatments to work. This is really fascinating and takes personalized medicine to its absolute limit where each patient would have a unique, bespoke treatment.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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