Death By Induced Survival gene Elimination, or DISE for short, is a dormant mechanism found in every living cell. When triggered, it causes the cell to commit suicide. This breakthrough discovery could lead to the development of novel cancer therapies.
“We think this is how multicellular organisms eliminated cancer before the development of the adaptive immune system, which is about 500 million years old”, said Marcus Peter, Ph.D., Professor of Cancer Metabolism at Northwestern University and lead researcher. “It could be a fail-safe that forces rogue cells to commit suicide. We believe it is active in every cell protecting us from cancer”.
The key lies with tiny molecules that contain RNA information, called small interfering (si)RNAs, which can obstruct the actions of several genes associated with the growth of malignant cells. siRNAs act as assassin molecules, eliminating the genes required for cell survival and at the same time activating multiple death cell pathways in parallel.
To test this approach, Dr. Marcus used nanoparticles to deliver the molecules to mice bearing human ovarian cancer. The treatment strongly reduced the tumor growth with no toxicity to surrounding healthy tissue. Even more importantly, the tumors did not develop resistance to this form of cancer treatment.
“Our research may be tapping into one of nature’s original kill switches, and we hope the impact will affect many cancers”.
This sort of therapy would forgo the use of chemo or radiation, eliminating all the negative side effects associated with these procedures. The “kill switch” method could be highly successful where other cutting-edge medications or advanced therapy approaches generally fail, with aggressive cancers like lung, brain, ovarian and pancreatic.