Is It Possible to Stop the Metastasis of Cancer Cells?

logo1267406_mdNew research published in the journal Biomaterials discusses using nanotechnology to develop a way to enhance natural killer cells in the immune system so they can more effectively seek out and destroy cancer cells in the lymph nodes. This has been used successfully in mice studies and if it works in humans, it could stop cancer using lymph nodes to spread to the rest of the body. Natural killer cells are white cells in the immune system that target and kill abnormal cells such as cells infected with virus. When they recognize the target cells, killer cells latch onto them and inject toxic molecules into them that disrupt several processes inside the abnormal cell triggering apoptosis or cell death.

Researchers found they can significantly boost this effort by attaching a protein called TRAIL (Tumor necrosis factor Related Apoptosis-inducing Ligand) to the killer cells and turn them into “super killer cells.” The killer cells inject TRAIL into the cancer cells and cause cell death and disintegration. Previously research showed that attaching TRAIL to white blood cells in the blood stream could kill cancer cells entering the bloodstream and stop them from spreading to the lung, kidney, liver and other organs.  However, most cancer cells spread through the lymph system and this is a way of staging cancer (whether or not present in lymph system). Cancer cells in the lymph system means a reduced risk of survival.

Researchers found that they could kill cancer cells in the lymph nodes of mice by injecting liposomes armed with TRAIL that attach to the natural killer cells that reside in the lymph nodes and within days eliminate the cancer cells. Liposomes are tiny spherical sacs enclosed in a thin membrane that can be used as vehicles to deliver drugs and nutrients to the cells. Researchers reemphasized “In our research, we use nanoparticles-the limosomes we have created with TRAIL protein- and attach them to natural cells, to create what we call super natural killer cells and then these completely eliminate lymph node metastases in mice.” Other animal studies are planned and the researchers say it may be years before the treatment is ready for human subject.

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