Scientists at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center in Sacramento, California, have made a significant breakthrough in cancer research by identifying a potential “kill switch” for cancer cells, according to a study published in the journal Cell Death & Differentiation. The researchers focused on the CD95 receptor, also known as Fas, which has earned the nickname “death receptor” due to its ability to trigger self-destruction in cancer cells.
The study, led by Jogender Tushir-Singh, an associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, pinpointed a specific protein on the CD95 receptor that can “program” cancer cells to die. This discovery opens up new possibilities for developing therapeutic interventions to target Fas in tumors, a feat that has proven elusive in previous attempts.
Traditional cancer treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, may soon be complemented by drugs designed to boost the activity of CD95 receptors. The newfound “kill switch” has the potential to not only terminate tumor cells but also enhance the effectiveness of immunotherapies. This could represent a promising combination, offering a “one-two punch” against various cancer types.
While immune-based therapies like CAR T-cell therapy have shown promise, their success has been limited, particularly in treating solid tumors. Tushir-Singh highlighted that the high cost and meager success in solid tumors remain significant challenges for CAR-T therapies.
BREAKING REPORT: New Cancer kill ‘switch’ that destroys tumors from the inside out identified by scientists..
Researchers in the United States have identified a protein segment located on the surface of tumor cells that, when activated, triggers their self-destruction.
— Chuck Callesto (@ChuckCallesto) October 25, 2023
The researchers emphasized the importance of screening potential cancer patients undergoing CAR-T therapy for the presence of Fas on their tumors. If a patient lacks Fas expression, strategies to safely manipulate tumors and induce Fas could be explored before administering costly CAR therapies, potentially enhancing their long-term efficacy.
Although no CD95-boosting drugs have entered clinical trials yet, the researchers are optimistic about the future of cancer treatments. Tushir-Singh noted that the breakthroughs in cancer immunotherapy and targeted therapies have significantly decreased overall cancer rates in recent decades. He encouraged people to stay positive, stating, “The next breakthrough is just one experiment away.”
The study acknowledges limitations, including limited data from clinical trials, but suggests that the findings pave the way for further research and analysis using human tumor samples from these trials.