Laboratory Products

  • What is the Cancer Kill Switch?

What is the Cancer Kill Switch?

Dec 10 2018 Read 1126 Times

Cancer is the world's biggest killer, claiming over 8 million lives a year. Now, a team of researchers from Northwestern University has broken new ground in the search for a cure and discovered a cancer "kill switch" that could hold the key to unlocking self-destruct pathways that actively destroy cancer cells.  

After almost a decade of analysing the human genome and its complex regulatory molecules, research leader Marcus Peter and his colleagues have honed in on a mechanism that proactively creates tiny RNA molecules. Also known as siRNAs, the molecules obstruct the actions of several genes associated with the growth of malignant cells, though don't attack healthy cells. The process is known as DISE, an acronym for Death By Induced Survival gene Elimination, and could prove to be a powerful weapon in the fight against cancer.

Harnessing the power of DISE

Having identified the six-nucleotide-long sequences associated with DISE, the team are now exploring ways to harness the "kill switch" and use naturally produced RNA molecules to supress cancerous tumours.

"We think this is how multicellular organisms eliminated cancer before the development of the adaptive immune system, which is about 500 million years old," explains Peter. "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."

Cancelling out chemotherapy

One of the biggest breakthroughs the team made is how the human body produces the free siRNAs needed to activate DISE. To do this Peter and his team analysed a process that sees cells divide a long RNA strand into multiple siRNAs. They then used this insight to prove that the same cellular machinery can be used to break down other protein-coding RNAs into cancer killing DISE siRNAs.

"Now that we know the kill code, we can trigger the mechanism without having to use chemotherapy and without messing with the genome,” asserts Peter.

He also predicts that where cutting-edge medications and advanced gene therapy approaches fail, the "kill switch" could be used to successfully target aggressive cancers like lung, brain, ovarian and pancreatic. This is because unlike other treatments, the DISE pathway simultaneously targets the activity of multiple genes which completely obliterates the growth of malignant cells.

Want to know more about the latest medical advances? Spotlighting the MRPS development of the Coulter Counter gold standard technique for cell counting and sizing, 'Accurate Measurements of Biological Nanoparticles' explores alternative method for measuring biological nanoparticles.

Reader comments

Do you like or dislike what you have read? Why not post a comment to tell others / the manufacturer and our Editor what you think. To leave comments please complete the form below. Providing the content is approved, your comment will be on screen in less than 24 hours. Leaving comments on product information and articles can assist with future editorial and article content. Post questions, thoughts or simply whether you like the content.

Post a Comment




Digital Edition

Lab Asia August 2019

August 2019

In this Issue Articles Mass Spectrometry & Spectroscopy 67th ASMS Conference on Mass Spectrometry and Allied Topics Chromatography Using Gas Chromatography for measuring atmo...

View all digital editions

Events

DioXin 2019

Aug 25 2019 Kyoto, Japan

ACS National Meeting & Expo, Fall 2019

Aug 25 2019 San Diego, CA, USA

Microscopy Conference 2019

Sep 01 2019 Berlin, Germany

BMSS Annual Meeting

Sep 03 2019 Manchester, UK

JASIS 2019

Sep 04 2019 Chiba City, Japan

View all events