Researchers found a similarity between placentas and tumor while working on a vaccine for pregnant women who contract malaria.
The similarities allowed armed malaria proteins to kill cancer cells.
The method of attacking cancer was effective with mice against several different types of cancer. However, researchers are unsure whether the same will be true in humans.
Scientists have been searching for similiarities between the growth of a placenta and a tumor for decades.
The placenta is an organ which grows from only few cells into an organ weighing about two pounds and it provides the embryo with oxygen and nourishment in a relatively foreign environment. Tumors are very similar; they grow aggressively in a relatively foreign environment.
Researchers found that carbohydrate malaria cells attach onto a placenta identically to how they attach onto cancer cells. They created the protein malaria cells use to adhere to the placenta and added a toxin to it. The protein and toxin then find cancer cells in the body and release the toxin and the cancer cells die.
After discovering this in cell cultures, researchers tested it on several human tumors implanted in mice. Mice implanted with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and treated with the malaria proteins had tumors shrink to about a quarter of the size of tumors in mice that didn’t receive the treatment.
Two of the six mice implanted with prostate cancer had tumors disappear a month after being treated. Five of the six mice with bone cancer were still alive eight weeks after treatment.
Based on the study, it does not appear that the malaria protein appears not to target any other cells except cancer cells.