(Inside Science TV) -- Twelve million Americans are cancer survivors, and approximately 1.6 million others in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer this year.
The two most common treatments for cancer, chemotherapy and radiation, effectively destroy cancer cells, but also damage healthy cells in the process. A new therapy aims to change this, by employing proteins that only target cancer cells.
UCLA chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Yi Tang and his team have created a less invasive treatment for breast cancer that uses proteins to kill the cancer from the inside out.
“When we deliver this protein into the body, even if they are getting to normal cells, they don’t affect the normal cells,” said Tang.
Tiny capsules carry proteins to targeted cancer cells. Once a capsule binds to the intended cell, it breaks down and releases the protein, causing the cancer cell to self-destruct. But, when the same protein meets a healthy cell, it simply dissolves without causing any damage to the cell.
“It’s because this protein target cannot enter the cell by itself. So we try to help these proteins going into the cell without losing function and kill the cancer,” said Muxon Zhao, a student at UCLA’s Biomolecular Engineering Laboratory.
Early experiments on mice have shown that the method is effective.
Tang’s team hopes to expand the experiment to test possible treatments for other cancers like ovarian and melanoma. This method could also be used one day to administer vaccines.
Get Inside The Science: