Researchers claim to have located a “circuit breaker” that can trigger the death of cancer cells.
Scientists at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center in Sacramento, California, have identified a protein on the CD95 receptor that can “program” cancer cell death, as detailed in a study published in the journal Cell Death & Differentiation last month.
A receptor is a protein found in a cell that receives and transmits signals.
CD95 receptors – also called Fas – have earned the nickname “death receptors” because they send a signal that causes cancer cells to self-destruct, according to a UC Davis press release.
“Previous efforts to target this receptor have failed. But now that we have identified this epitope (target), there could be a therapeutic avenue to target Fas in tumors,” Jogender Tushir-Singh, associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and senior author of the study, said in the press release.
Experts hope that future cancer drugs could stimulate the activity of these CD95 receptors to create a new weapon against cancerous tumors, which have historically been treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Immune therapies, such as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, have shown promise for a subset of patients but have had limited effectiveness against many cancer types.
“Despite decent success in liquid tumors, such as leukemia spectrum cancers, long-term remission remains the biggest challenge for CAR-T cell therapies,” Tushir-Singh told Fox News Digital in an email.
The biggest challenge with this therapy — which typically costs $500,000 or more — is that it has shown only “meager success” in treating solid tumors, the researcher noted.
“Our study provides a comprehensive and potential solution to transform the meager success of CAR-T therapies into potentially effective solid tumors.”
The newly discovered “kill switch” could eliminate tumor cells while helping to make immunotherapies more effective – “a potential one-two punch against tumors,” the release said.
So far, no CD95-stimulating drugs have been in clinical trials.
“Despite many advances in cancer immunotherapy, targeting Fas remains overlooked, primarily due to fear of retaliation against the immune system’s T cells,” Tushir-Singh told Fox News Digital.
The study had some limitations, namely the limited amount of data from clinical trials, the researcher noted.
Tushir-Singh emphasized, however, that cancer researchers can now go back and collect human tumor samples from clinical trials and perform new analyzes in light of those results.
“It’s obvious that the success of CAR-T therapy relies on off-target killing by Fas,” he told Fox News Digital.
“With current information, we, as researchers and doctors, should screen potential cancer patients – who would be undergoing CAR-T therapy – for the full presence of Fas on their tumors,” he continued.
“If a patient doesn’t express Fas in their tumors, we need to find ways to manipulate those tumors safely and start making them before giving them expensive CAR therapies. The latter would likely make CARs more powerful in terms of long-term effectiveness.
Looking ahead, Tushir-Singh said he is hopeful about the future of cancer treatments.
“Due to the advent of cancer immunotherapy and other targeted therapies, cancer rates have declined overall in recent decades,” he said.
“I read every day about the exceptional research being done in the United States to beat cancer. People should stay positive.
Tushir-Singh added: “The next breakthrough is just an experiment away. »