Researchers have found a naturally occurring molecule and a component of the immune system that could successfully target and kill cancer cells, according to a study.
The study, published in British Journal of Cancer, discovered that beta-galactoside-binding protein, a naturally occurring molecule produced by immune cells can non-specifically target cancer cells, make them undergo cell death and through a stress response pathway make the cancer cells visible to the immune system to prompt an anti-cancer immune response that would secure protection against recurrences.
"By contrast, the anti-tumour property of the molecule is selective and not harmful to normal cells. It is effective against the most aggressive colorectal cancer cells and a wide range of other cancer cells equally unresponsive to current therapies," said study lead author Professor Livio Mallucci from King's College London.
"This research presents experimental evidence for a strategy where the targeting of cancer cells and the stimulation of immunity combine to prompt immediate and long-term responses against aggressive cancer," he said.
According to the researchers, major developments in anti-cancer therapies have taken place over the last decade, but as only a subset of patients respond to treatments, there is a need for further development.
Crucially, there is a need to induce the immune system to ensure long-term protection against the recurrence of cancer.
Current approaches to achieve this involve killing cells by using chemotherapeutics and other agents which could be harmful and have uncertain outcomes, the study said.
"Translation of the molecule to the clinic could open a new therapeutic opportunity which safely combines direct killing of cancer cells and the stimulation of the immune system against recurrences, a significant step forward in the management of cancer," he added.