Most anti-cancer procedures currently used – chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, work by killing cancer cells through a process called apoptosis, which activates certain proteins leading to cell death. Unfortunately, these therapies can often fail to kill all mutated cells, leaving room for recurrence or even serious side effects.
Dr. Stephen Tait from the Beatson Institute of Cancer Sciences in U.K. proposed a new method of attacking tumors, namely Caspase-Independent Cell Death (CICD). “Especially under conditions of partial therapeutic response, as our experiments mimic, our data suggests that triggering tumour-specific CICD, rather than apoptosis, may be a more effective way to treat cancer”, he noted.
When cancerous cells die through CICD, they alert the immune system through the release of inflammatory proteins, unlike with apoptosis, which is a silent form of cell death. This allows for antibodies to attack the remaining tumor cells that evaded initial therapy-induced death.
Testing was done on lab-grown colorectal cancer samples, but the procedure may be applicable to a wide range of cancer types.
“In essence, this mechanism has the potential to dramatically improve the effectiveness of anti-cancer therapy and reduce unwanted toxicity. Taking into consideration our findings, we propose that engaging CICD as a means of anti-cancer therapy warrants further investigation”, added Dr. Tait.
Besides fighting cancer cells, the therapy has another advantage, it activates the immune system. Overall, it seems to be safer, present fewer side effects and do a better job at preventing the disease from coming back.
The next objective for the team is to develop ways of triggering this particular route of cell death more effectively, and hopefully, start clinical trials in the near future.