Cell Death Technique

I found an article written by Honor Whiteman on a novel cell death technique that he feels may be better than chemo.  Usually chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy are used to treat cancer.  They do not work for all patients suffering from cancer.  There is a new study where scientists have discovered a cancer-killing technique that might be more effective than conventional cancer therapies.

A process called caspase-independent cell death (CICD) frequently led to the complete eradication of colorectal cancer cells.  Dr. Stephen Tait is the co-author of the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute at the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom.  He and his colleagues reported their findings in the journal Nature Cell Biology.

Cancer is still one of the biggest health burdens today.  More than 1.6 million new cases were diagnosed in the US last year and almost 600,000 died from the disease.  Dr. Tait explains that the majority of today’s cancer therapies work by inducing apoptosis, which is a form of programmed cell death, or cell suicide, that helps to rid the body of abnormal or unnecessary cells by activating proteins called caspases.  Apoptosis is often inactive, though, in cancer cells.

Reactivating apoptosis in these cancer cells through chemo or immunotherapy is one way of killing them, but not always effective.  Sometimes cancer cells are able to evade treatment-induced apoptosis and may even promote cancer growth.  But CICD takes cancer killing one step further and may be a more effective way to treat it.

CICD kills cancer cells through a process called mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP), but does this without releasing caspases that are normally released through apoptosis.  Typically cells die following MOMP even in the absence of cascade activity.  Therefore this defines MOMP as a point of no return that commits a cell to die.  When the cells die as a result of CICD they send signals to the immune system and prompt them to attack and destroy the cancer cells that managed to escape CICD.  When tested on colorectal tumors grown in the lab, they found it managed to kill nearly all cancer cells.

More studies are needed to confirm the safety and efficacy of CICD but they do believe that it could lead to better treatments for a number of types of cancers.  This mechanism has the potential to dramatically improve the effectiveness of anti-cancer therapy and reduce unwanted toxicity.  They are proposing that engaging CICD as a means of anti-cancer therapy warrants further investigation.

Dr Fredda Branyon