A cure for cancer?

A group from Israel has made the rather extraordinary claim that within 12 months they will have a cure for cancer. Before you sign up for the treatment or start investing in the company, it is important to realise when you hear any news about major breakthroughs in medicine in the news media, that often it is purely hype, a push to lift the share price or the treatment has only been shown to work in the laboratory or experimental mice. In this case, it may be a cure but equally could be any of the other situations mentioned above.

At present, the standard treatments for cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Over the past decade a new brand of therapy known as immunotherapy is also showing enormous strides in the treatment of a variety of different cancers. Also, a new therapy which has been proven successful in humans and also now being used in Australia involves more personalised therapies where a person’s own tumour is mapped and their immune system is reprogrammed to attack the tumour. This is known as CAR-T therapy.

This new Israeli treatment is being promoted by a company, Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies and uses a somewhat similar principle to CAR-T therapy. The therapy known as MuTaTo, again takes an individual tumour, assesses the variety of receptors on the surface of the tumour and uses small clusters of amino acids, known as peptides to bind to these receptors allowing a protein toxin to then enter the cancer cell killing the tumour. With treatment such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy, these treatments specifically target either an enzyme system within the cancer cell or in the case of immunotherapy, typically targets receptors on the surface of cancer. This makes the cancer more recognisable by the immune system but this can often lead to resistance to therapy.

image source: respectfulinsolence.com

The function of every living organism is to survive and cancer cells are no different. When medical therapy attacks cancer it will, at times, rapidly develop resistance to the therapy and the cancer will recur. This Israeli company is suggesting that their new therapy targets multiple receptors on the cancer cell which prevents these cells from developing resistance to the treatment. Before any resistance can occur, the toxic protein that is tagged to the small peptide therapy kills the cells without recurrence. To date, this has worked in cancer cells in the laboratory and in experimental mice without any side effects whatsoever but has not been trialled in humans. This therapy does appear extremely promising but unfortunately, I have heard these claims in the past which did not translate into a human cure for cancer. I certainly hope that in this case I am completely wrong.