Health Desk—April 12, 2017: Australian scientists have made a breakthrough in preventing cancer from mutating in the human body.
The team from Melbourne's Olivia Newton-John (ONJ) Cancer Wellness and Research Centre have been able to interrupt the body's wound-healing process and lock cancer cells into a "harmless" state before they can mutate and spread.
The process has proved successful in treating colon and stomach cancer and lead researcher Matthias Ernst believes it could be applied to other cancers.
Instead of targeting cancer cells themselves, the ONJ breakthrough interrupts a white blood cell process called macrophages which has been known to fight cancer.
However, if the macrophage cells are exposed to a wound then the HCK protein signals the cells to take on a nursing role, prompting extra skin cells to grow and cover the wound.
The research team discovered that cancer cells can hijack the healing properties and use white blood cells to fuel their own growth rather than skin cells.
By blocking the HCK protein and preventing the macrophage cells from changing to a nursing role to begin with, Ernst's team has been able to suppress the growth of established tumours.
"We have identified a way you can therapeutically target the non-mutated cells in a cancer. The advantage of that is because they are non-mutated they are less likely to develop resistance," Ernst told News Limited on Wednesday.
"We know very well how to inhibit these molecules, and therefore it is very foreseeable on how you would develop a drug that can inhibit the activity of the HCK and therefore lock the macrophage into garbage collector state and rather than allowing them to become nurses."
Ernst said his team was currently working to develop a drug capable of safely freezing the process with human clinical trials on the horizon.