At last. A drug found to kill cancer stem cells. Maybe.

2014 Research

Scientists at Imperial College, London, Professor Agamemnon Epenetos and Professor Charles Coombes, may just have found a solution to a problem that has beset the war on cancer from the outset. Called TR4, the drug has been developed by Trojantec.

In 2012 it was confirmed beyond all argument that at the heart of almost all tumours and even cancers like multiple myeloma lay cancer stem cells. An inconvenient truth accompanied this finding. No drug has yet been created that kills them. So much for Cancer Research claims that we are beating cancer due to better drugs! Cancer stem cells are drug-resistant.

As one researcher, Luis Parada of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre in Dallas noted, at least now we know what we have got to do!

It seems the chaps at Imperial College may have delivered. By taking cancer stem cells and injecting them into mice, they generated virulent, aggressive tumours for breast, ovarian and colorectal cancers. They then injected the mice with a drug containing two proteins, the first (a protein from fruit flies and very similar to a natural protein in humans) can travel throughout the body and even through the blood brain barrier. The second protein then enters the cancer stem cell, enters its nucleus, and causes cell death. The drug, at the moment is called T4 and is being developed by a company called Trojantec.

Human trials are needed urgently because stem cells are the natural repair cells of the body. Somehow they get ‘stuck’ in their rapidly dividing state and do not differentiate into normal, healthy cells. Professor Wang of British Columbia in 2004, claimed the discovery, but in reality an embryologist from Manchester called John Beard had detailed the theory in 1906, stating that stem cells (the basic cells of a foetus) became stuck in the trophoblastic state because of the effects of oestrogen, the female sex hormone, while pancreatic enzymes could cause them to convert to normal cells. He likened cancer as having a baby form in the wrong place at the wrong time!

Cancer stem cells are rapidly dividing and a few will produce many identical ‘daughter’ cells very quickly. Even if a tumour is attacked by chemotherapy and radiotherapy and declines by 70 per cent, as long as a few cancer stem cells remain in its core, it can regrow. CSCs are drug and radiotherapy resistant. However, the NCI has conducted research showing that ‘bad’ foods can stimulate the regrowth while bioactive compounds in ‘good’ foods can halt it.

The theory being developed is that some stem cells are faulty, and that causes cancer. That is not what either Beard or Wang concluded. Modern researchers are targeting the ‘Notch’ pathway, which operates at the DNA level and causes CSC multiplication.

In short-term animal experiments there seem to be no adverse toxic effects on the body, as this treatment is very specific. However, stem cells are crucial to a healthy body and much longer-term human trials are needed before euphoria should be allowed.

For the scientists amongst you, TR4 is a genetically engineered fusion protein, consisting of Antennapedia and DN MAML.

For further reading:

1. Cancer stem cells need targeting: Click here
2. Bioactive foods tackle cancer stem cells: Click here  
3. Cancer stem cell research gathering pace: Click here 


2014 Research
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