A new experimental treatment is reportedly causing cancer cells to self-destruct without the use of drugs, providing new hope for winning the war against many different types of disease.
The treatment involves a nanoparticle coated in an amino acid called L-phenylalanine. The chemical is not produced naturally in the body, but is instead absorbed by the meat and dairy products that humans consume.
L-phenylalanine is the perfect bait as it is one of the main amino acids needed by cancer cells to grow and spread throughout the human body, wreaking havoc in the process.
The new new treatment proved incredibly effective in mice. The secret is the Nanoscopic phenylalanine Porous Amino Acid Mimic nanoparticle, or Nano-pPAAM for short.
Nano-pPAAM triggers the overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) which causes a cascade effect within the cancer cells, killing them and leaving the surrounding healthy cells intact.
“Against conventional wisdom, our approach instead involved using the nanomaterial as a drug [of] as a drug carrier “, says materials scientist Dalton Tay of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
The method kills about 80% of breast, skin and stomach cancer cells in mice, on par with major chemotherapy treatments but without the nasty side effects. Research on nanoparticles typically focuses on their use as a drug delivery mechanism, not as a treatment itself.
However, there is still a long line of regulatory hurdles to overcome before treatment is available to human patients.
If it passes the test in clinical trials, it will also help combat recurrent drug-resistant forms of cancer, providing another possible sign of hope; with no drugs to fight against, cancer will have nothing to resist.
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