Illustration by Futurism M.A
Hard Science

A “Self-Destruct” Switch for Cancer? New Method Turns Cancer Cells Against Themselves

Self-Destruct Hack

A professor at the biology department of the University of Texas in San Antonio has developed a non-invasive method that can wipe out up to an estimated 95% of tumor cells in mice—within two hours!

Gdovin tried his method on one of the most aggressive forms of cancer, and one of the hardest to treat: triple negative breast cancer. The procedure stopped the tumor’s growth in mice after just one treatment in the laboratory, doubling their chances of survival.

It is a self-destruct command that Gdovin executed on the cancer cells—he formulated a way that uses their own behavior against them.

“All forms of cancer attempt to make cells acidic on the outside as a way to attract the attention of a blood vessel, which attempts to get rid of the acid,” Gdovin said. “Instead, the cancer latches onto the blood vessel and uses it to make the tumor larger and larger.”

Matthew Gdovin injected tumors with nitrobenzaldehyde, and then subjected them to a beam of ultraviolet light, causing the cancer cells to become so acidic that they commit “suicide.” The cells were found wiping themselves out within two hours.

“Even though there are many different types of cancers, the one thing they have in common is their susceptibility to this induced cell suicide,” he said.

Watch this video to see how similar light-activated tumor treatments work.

Safer Alternatives for Cancer Patients on the Way

The truth about cancer cells is that they are not difficult to kill. But the problem is the processes we have to eliminate them would also weaken and possibly even kill the hosts themselves. Chemotherapy cannot target a tumor alone; it brings down all the cells in the body regardless of whether they are cancer cells or not. 

Gdovin’s procedure targets only the tumor without damaging the rest of the body.

This makes it extremely useful in patients with inoperable tumors due to their location, such as in the brain stem, aorta, and spine. It’s also a safer alternative over radical treatments for frail patients, those who have already received the maximum amount of radiation and therefore cannot receive any more, as well as children who run the risk of developing mutations as they grow older due to the radiation exposure.

Gdovin is now developing noninvasive tumor eradication methods further to aid the battle against cancer. He is also working on a technique that is far less intrusive than the already noninvasive method he just published: a nanoparticle injection that would target metastasized cancer cells in the body, and can be activated using light that passes harmlessly through the skin.

“There are so many types of cancer for which the prognosis is very poor,” he said. “We’re thinking outside the box and finding a way to do what for many people is simply impossible.”

 

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