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1 Aug, 2023
1 min time to read

The study, published in the journal Nature, describes how cancer cells can be rewired to "activate cell death," effectively turning the cells' ability to replicate uncontrollably against themselves.

Researchers from Stanford University and gene therapy company Shenandoah Therapeutics have constructed molecules that attached two proteins together: a mutated protein called BCL6, responsible for enabling cancer cells to survive and grow, and a normal protein that acts as a switch for nearby genes.

By combining these proteins, the researchers redirected the cancer cells towards genes that trigger cell death, a natural process in DNA that eliminates old cells that have fulfilled their purpose.

In cancer patients, cell death genes are turned off by a protein known as BCL6. However, with the new construct, the regular protein switch was guided towards these cell death genes, effectively rewiring the cancer cells to undergo self-destruction.

While the development of a practical drug based on this gene therapy is still a long way off, scientists are intrigued by the possibility of using cancer cells' own survival mechanisms against them. The new approach could be effective against approximately half of all known cancers and might offer a highly targeted treatment option.

Lead author Gerald Crabtree, founder of Shenandoah Therapeutics, noted that the hybrid molecule has shown safety in mice, but emphasized that it is not yet a drug and requires further development before human trials.