Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have discovered a way to use the “executioner protein” BAX to induce cancer cells to commit suicide while leaving healthy cells untouched.
They’ve tested their innovative new treatment against acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells. AML kills more than 10,000 Americans each year, and accounts for about one-third of all new leukemia cases nationwide.
Currently, patients with AML only have about a 30% survival rate, and new treatments that are effective are a hot commodity in treating the disease.
While this new treatment has only been tested on AML, it may have the potential to successfully attack other cancer cell varieties.
“We’re hopeful that the targeted compounds we’re developing will prove more effective than current anti-cancer therapies by directly causing cancer cells to self-destruct,” said Evripidis Gavathiotis, associate professor of medicine and biochemistry and senior author of the study on treatment, in a press release. “Ideally, our compounds would be combined with other treatments to kill cancer cells faster and more efficiently—and with fewer adverse effects, which are an all-too-common problem with standard chemotherapies.”
The novel new treatment fights cancer cells by triggering apoptosis, a natural process our bodies use to get rid of malfunctioning and unwanted cells. While certain chemotherapy drugs already in use induce apoptosis, they do so indirectly by damaging the DNA in cancer cells. But this treatment directly triggers the process intentionally by activating BAX, the “executioner protein.”
“Our novel compound revives suppressed BAX molecules in cancer cells by binding with high affinity to BAX’s activation site,” Dr. Gavathiotis said in the release. “BAX can then swim into action, killing cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unscathed.”