Researchers say that a malaria protein may hold a key for a cancer cure.
In recent trial runs experts found that the malaria protein armed with a toxin sought out and absorbed cancer cells. It then released the toxin and thereby destroyed the cells.
For now, researchers have only tested the protein in animals but plan to test it in humans soon. The findings were published on Monday in the journal Cancer Cell.
Scientist and professor, Ali Salanti, from the University of Copenhagen, commented on the study. Salanti said, “For decades scientists have been searching for similarities between the growth of a placenta and a tumor. The placenta is an organ, which within only a few months grows from only a few cells into an organ weighing 2 pounds, and it provides an embryo with oxygen and nourishment in a relatively foreign environment.” Salanti said tumors do the same thing; they grow at a rapid pace in a foreign environment.
The malaria medicine was originally being used on pregnant women and then researchers found that the carbohydrate it attaches itself to in pregnant women is identical to the carbohydrate in cancer cells.
Salanti said to further the research they tested the malaria protein on cancer cells and it attached itself to them the same way it did to a placenta.
In order to ensure that the toxin and the malaria protein were able to fight different cancers researchers scrutinized many samples; this scrutiny included everything from brain tumors to leukemia.
The malaria protein was tested on mice that were infected with many types of cancer. The cancers included: non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer and metastatic bone cancer. Researchers found that the malaria protein was effective in reducing the tumors from every type of cancer tested.
Dr. Clausen, from the University of Copenhagen, commented on the study.
He said, “It appears that the malaria protein attaches itself to the tumor without any significant attachment to other tissue. And the mice that were given doses of protein and toxin showed far higher survival rates than untreated mice. We have seen that three doses can arrest growth in a tumor and even make it shrink.”
Researchers are extremely optimistic about the potential that this could have in cancer care.