Scientists have developed a method to eradicate cancer cells as effectively as widely-accepted treatments, like chemotherapy — without the radiation treatment’s notorious adverse effects and toxicity — and this, with an infinitesimally low risk of the disease returning.
Called Caspase Independent Cell Death (CICD), the method annihilated all cancer cells, destroying whole tumors — a result previously unattainable — nearly eliminating the instance of cancer recurrence in experimental models employed by scientists with University of Glasgow.
CICD, says study lead author Dr. Stephen Tait, “often led to complete tumour regression” and “may be a more effective way to treat cancer” than apoptosis — a process of killing cancerous cells, common to radiation, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy, which activates proteins known as caspases.
“In essence,” Tait, cited by Sky News, continued, “this mechanism has the potential to dramatically improve the effectiveness of anti-cancer therapy and reduce unwanted toxicity.
“Taking into consideration our findings, we propose that engaging CICD as a means of anti-cancer therapy warrants further investigation.”
According to Sky News, “When cancer cells are killed through CICD, they alert the immune system through the release of inflammatory proteins. The immune system can then attack tumour cells that were not killed during the initial treatment.
“While colorectal cancer cells were used by researchers, the benefits of CICD may also apply to a wide-range of cancer types.”
Cancer, in its multifarious forms, is still the planet’s second-most prolific killer — responsible for one in six deaths worldwide — and the World Health Organization ominously predicts the number of cases to rise over the next two decades by a truly alarming 70 percent. In 2012, the latest data provided by WHO, 14 million new cases of cancer were reported, and the disease killed an incredible 8.8 million people in 2015. That same year, the U.S. government predicted 1,685,210 Americans would be newly diagnosed with cancer in 2016; and, for 595,690, the disease would be fatal.
“National expenditures for cancer care in the United States totaled nearly $125 billion in 2010 and could reach $156 billion in 2020,” cancer.gov states.
Chemotherapy and other treatments not only maintain a nasty reputation for insufferable nausea, weakness, exhaustion, and similar noxious effects, but frequently fail to eliminate all cancerous cells, leaving a toxic environment sufficient for redevelopment of the disease.
“In contrast,” Futurism reports on the groundbreaking new method, “when the CICD technique kills cancer cells, those cells release inflammatory proteins which alert the immune system to ramp up the body’s own natural defenses, which then attack any remaining tumor cells missed during the initial treatment.”
Dr. Justine Alford, spokesperson for Cancer Research UK — which partly funded the study — told Sky News,
“Although many cancer treatments work by triggering apoptosis, that method sometimes fails to finish the job and instead may lead to the tumor becoming harder to treat. This new research suggests there could be a better way to kill cancer cells which, as an added bonus, also activates the immune system.”
Promising though the developments, researchers have yet to successfully apply CICD in a human patient; but — given the prospects — the scientists plan to continue.
Even barring successful human trials, that CICD may eliminate myriad concurrent illnesses of chemotherapy isn’t the treatment’s sole appeal: A study in July found chemotherapy — the treatment, itself — increases aggression in breast cancers, elevating the odds of metastasis. Science reported on the findings at the time,
“The blood vessels of patients receiving chemotherapy drugs have more ‘entry points’ through which cancer cells can get into the blood flow and disperse throughout the body, scientists report today in Science Translational Medicine. In mice with breast cancer, chemotherapy shrinks the primary tumor but boosts the number of cancer cells in the lungs and circulating the body.”
Although a glut of cancer studies parallels the diseases massive global impact, CICD appears to hold the most optimistic outlook. Cannabis presents perhaps the broadest prospects for treating cancer — not to mention post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, Crohn’s disease, childhood epilepsy, and more — with a June study announcing the use of weed following chemotherapy greatly amplifies the killing of malignant cells. Of course, cannabis also treats the nausea and ill effects of chemo, as well as the pain and pressure experienced by sufferers of diseases like glaucoma.
Researchers may have a heavy workload ahead to render CICD efficacious for the eradication of cancer in humans, but the model is certainly something to look for in the future.