The fight against cancer has scored a major victory today, after researchers develop a brand new process to induce the death of cancerous cells.
The new method, known as Caspase Independent Cell Death (CICD), has achieved total eradication of tumours in experimental models.
Current standard treatments for cancer patients include chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which kill off cancer cells via apoptosis.
Apoptosis is a sort of ‘programmed cell death’, where a cell is effectively induced to kill itself. This process involves proteins called caspases, which kick off the apoptosis process by breaking down the essential components needed for cell survival. The cells shrink, and as they do, they send out distress signals which are picked up by the human immune system. Macrophages (white blood cells) are then dispatched to consume the dying cell, essentially cleaning up the body. Apoptosis is often neat and leads no trace of the cell.
Despite its efficacy, apoptosis often fails to kill off all targeted cells, and crucially, the remaining cancerous cells fail to trigger an immune response, which is the reason why some types of cancer tend to reoccur.
CICD triggers cell death in such a way that the dying cell alerts the human immune system via the release of inflammatory proteins. The body responds and kills off the cancerous cells that escaped treatment.
CICD has shown great potential by inducing complete tumour regression in experimental models, and the results suggest new ways of treating cancer more effectively in the near future.