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Cancer Cure: Drug To Starve Cancer Cells To Death Identified In Study

By Anne Dominguez , Jan 25, 2017 06:47 AM EST
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Scientists reveled a more efficient cancer cure. In a recent study, researchers found a way to exploit the weak points of tumor cells through their metabolic defect, that is, by forcing them to reveal their fuel supply and starving them to death. They have also found a drug for this new treatment and are now planning a clinical trial.

Scientists have been trying to find ways to block nutrients from reaching tumor cells for decades. A saracoma cell relies on its environments for arginine, a protein which is an important building block in cells. Blocking these would result to starvation or proliferation of the tumor cells. However, previous efforts for this kind of treatment resulted to failure due as the cells had numerous back-up routes.

In a study published in in Cell Reports on Tuesday, Jan. 24. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (WUSTL) investigated mice which were implanted with tumor samples of human patients. They were able to map these back-up routes and identified a drug to block them. Previously, sarcomas are treated through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery but these traditional treatments are often deemed ineffective.

"When we use a drug to deplete arginine in the blood, the cancer cells panic because they've lost their fuel supply. So they rewire themselves to try to survive. " Brian A. Van Tine, MD, PhD, senior author of the study said in a press release from WUSTL. "In this study, we used that rewiring to identify drugs that block the secondary routes."

The researchers also highlighted that this treatment method would be less toxic. Unlike other cancer cure, this method would not affect healthy cells. Normal cells make their own arginine so they would not be affected by the starvation. They added that by completely shutting down the tumor metabolism resulted to shrinking of the tumors.

Currently, researchers at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine are planning to do a clinical trial of the arginine-depleting drug. Van Tine explained that the drug will be the baseline of the trial but they would also add other therapies. If effective, he added that this new cancer cure could treat about 90 percent of sarcoma tumors.

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