This week, researchers at Cardiff University discovered a method that has “enormous potential” to treat all cancers.
Their research — which was published on Monday in Nature Immunology — focuses on a newly discovered part of our immune system that holds the power to kill prostate, breast, lung and other cancers.
How it works
The human immune system is known for fighting infection. However, it also has the capacity to attack cancerous cells.
With this in mind, the researchers began looking for “unconventional” ways that the immune system naturally attacks tumors. They discovered a T-cell in the blood that has the ability to scan the human body for threats that need to be eliminated.
Though the research is still in its early stages, the newly discovered T-cell holds potential to attack a myriad of cancers. That’s because, in the lab, the cell’s receptor was shown to kill a wide range of cancerous cells (including lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney and cervical cancer cells).
Normal tissues were left untouched.
“Previously nobody believed this could be possible,” researcher Prof Andrew Sewell told the BBC. “It raises the prospect of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ cancer treatment.”
Why this is significant
Existent T-cell cancer therapies and the development of cancer immunotherapy have been crucial advances in the treatment field. However, existing approaches are markedly specific and work only in a limited number of cancers.
The newly discovered T-cell receptor is exciting due to the wide range of cancer cells it attacks — and its potential to make way for a “universal” cancer treatment.
However, the Cardiff team noted that their research has been tested only on lab cells and animals, and that more safety checks would be needed before beginning human trials.
Despite the early stages of the research, the discovery is unquestionably exciting. “There’s a chance here to treat every patient,” said Sewell.