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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Using Molecules To Kill Cancer Cells? (Israel)

(Image: Prof. Shimon Gatt (left) and Dr. Arie Dagan at the Hebrew University Laboratory. Credit: Sasson Tiram, Hebrew University)

While most doctors around the world use chemotherapy as a way to fight tumors in cancer cells, it looks as if a few scientists are using molecules to destroy these dangerous cells--without hurting friendly neighboring tissue.

(Israel 21st Century) A new weapon in the fight against cancer may soon be added to the global arsenal. Two Israeli researchers were awarded the Kaye Award for Innovation last week, for having designed synthetic molecules that succeeded in reducing and even eliminating the growth of human malignant tissues in mice, while having no toxic effects on normal tissue.

The underlying principle of the new therapy is inducing cell death in the abnormal cells through the use of sphingolipids, a family of complex lipid molecules involved in the signaling pathways that mediate cell growth, differentiation and programmed cell death (apoptosis). This means, in layman's terms, that the next generation of cancer drugs could reach the long sought-after goal of forcing rogue cells to die.

Israeli scientists have already developed alternative ways to fight cancer ranging from electrical fields to even freezing tumors, as well as a "colorful way" of detecting cancer within the body.

As far as the molecular method goes, more research will need to be done to ensure that this treatment is safe for humans, but if effective it could lead to a whole new way of combating one of Earth's oldest known diseases.

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