A new cancer treatment is drawing a protein of the cancer causing KRAS gene to the cancer cell’s surface, so that the body’s immune system can target and kill them.
Imagine a future where cancer is gone, never to come back again. This may sound too good to be true, but scientists are one step closer after developing an innovative treatment that could revolutionize how we fight this disease and others like it in the process!
In a study published this month in the peer-reviewed publication Cancer Cell, doctors found they could make use of an immune system marker on cancer-causing KRAS by attaching the protein with something else—a molecular “tag”. This discovery could pave the way for more effective drug treatments and earlier detection in those who are at high risk.
The treatment works by drawing a protein from the cancer-causing KRAS gene, which is responsible for quarter of all tumors to its surface. From there it turns this now exposed strand into an “eat me” signal that will help attract your immune system’s attack force so that you’ll be able to beat these cancer cells.
The study’s co-author, Kevin Shokat, said that the immune system has the potential to recognize mutated KRAS, but it usually can’t find it very well. By adding a marker to the protein, it becomes much easier for the immune system to find.
But KRAS drugs have been slow to take off because they’re difficult for the body’s immune system to detect once inside cells.
In recent years, Shokat’s research into KRAS has allowed scientists to develop drugs that help block the effects of this protein in tumor cells. One such drug is Lumakras, which can be used alongside other treatments and forms part of our body’s natural defense against cancerous growths!
But in order for these medicines to work effectively and fully remove all tumor-causing cells from your body, it was necessary to use another drug: ARS1620.
The researchers in the Cancer Cell study found that when ARS1620 binds to KRAS proteins, it blocks their tumorous effects. Not only that, but the drug-KRAS complex also alerts the body’s immune system to get rid of the cell.
Charles Craik, one of the study’s authors and a professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at UCSF, said that this mutated protein is usually unnoticed because it is very similar to the healthy protein. However, when you attach this drug to it, it gets spotted right away.
The researchers found they could create a new form of immunotherapy to target cancer cells that have the KRAS gene. Even more exciting, the treatment worked on cells that were resistant to the drug.
This is a wonderful development, but more work needs to be done before it can be used on humans. But Charles Craik, the scientist who developed this treatment, is optimistic that it can be used to help other people.