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New Breakthrough in Cancer Treatment

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New Breakthrough in Cancer Treatment

A new discovery made by researchers from the Queen’s University Belfast could lead to an increase in the effectiveness of throat and cervical cancer treatment. The new discovery could be the starting point of new therapies that would treat the tumor whilst targeting the non-cancerous cells surrounding it.

The research team has discovered that the tissue surrounding the tumor, the stroma, is directly linked to the growth of cervical and throat cancer. This study opens doors for future treatment schemes that would target the stroma instead of targeting the cancerous cells, thus preventing the cancerous cells from spreading any further.

The study has been published in the journal  European Molecular Biology Organization. “Cancer spreads as the result of two-way communication between the cancer cells in a tumour and the non-cancerous cells in the surrounding tissue”, said Professor Dennis McCance, the lead author of the study.

Previous studies have shown that cancerous cells are programmed to invade the neighboring tissues. Professor McCance adds that the non-cancerous cells are also programmed to aid the invasion of the cancerous cells in the healthy tissue from the near vicinity. He also added that if the messages sent by the healthy cells can be turned off, it would result in the inhibition of the cancerous invasion.

Cancerous Cells

Cancerous Cells

 The research team discovered that a particular protein is involved in regulating the communication pathway between the healthy tissue and the cancerous cells. This protein, known as the Retinoblasoma protein (Rb), if activated, leads to the decrease of the factors that encourage cancerous invasion.

The Retinoblastoma protein can be found in both cancerous and non-cancerous tissue. Its role in the growth of cancer cells is already known, however, this is the first time that researchers discover the role of the protein in healthy tissue. Professor McCance used 3D tissue samples that were grown inside a laboratory and used to replicate the stroma that surrounds the throat and cervix tumors.

“By specifically targeting pathways controlled by the Rb protein, it would be possible to switch-off the messages that encourage cancer cells to invade, and inhibit the spread of the tumor”, noted Professor McCance, whilst also adding that their research was focused only on throat and cervical cancer. There is a possibility that the Retinoblastoma protein or other proteins that can be found in the healthy tissues that surround other types of cancer could have a similar role in the spread of cancerous cells.