Some researchers at Northwestern University found that cells have a special code in them that gives them the ability to destroy cancer cells. These certain RNA molecules can also prevent the cancer cells from becoming resistant to the various forms of treatment.
A few years ago, a few studies suggested that humans have a natural mechanism within their bodies that can destroy cancer cells when it’s harnessed properly, and not have any chemotherapy side effects. But the exact mechanism behind this procedure was unknown until now. In a new study, the researchers found that there is a code embedded within the RNA and microRNAs of every cell, which is responsible for each of the cancer cells’ ability to self-destruct.
In simple terms, according to the researchers, the cells perform something akin to “stabbing yourself, shooting yourself, and jumping off a building all at the same time.” Which means that there is no way for the cells to survive that.
The lead author of the study is named Marcus Peter, who is a professor of cancer metabolism at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern. He and his team managed to learn that the natural mechanism involves six nucleotides in the small RNAs. After testing 4,096 combinations of nucleotide bases in these RNAs, they finally managed to find the one that’s lethal to the cancer cells. They also managed to learn that there’s a gene that helps with the growth of cancer cells, which can get destroyed and then act like the cancer-killing microRNA.
For the past few years, there has been a countless number of academic researchers that have been trying to find all of the ways that they could trick the cancer cells to self-destruct. For example, there’s a team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital that are working on this method by using the gene-editing technology named CRISPR, so they could give the cancer cells the ability to both recognize as well as kill the other cancer cells. Next, there are other researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, who are using the same gene-editing technology in order to find a mechanism that’s causing melanoma cells to be resistant to BRAF inhibitors. This finding later led them to make a drug combination that can boos apoptosis in the cancer cells and reduces the resistance.
All in all, Peter thinks that the findings that the team has made can be used to find better treatments for cancer, that can mimic this newly discovered toxic microRNA, which will be much more powerful in their ability to eliminate cancer cells.