Not content with using HIV to kill cancer, science has decided to stop dicking around with this whole cancer thing and make it eat its own biological gun.
We’re not kidding. Scientists have figured out how to make cancer commit suicide, and it comes down to one tiny molecule.
That molecule is TIC-10, and all it does it flip a genetic switch. Unfortunately for cancer, that genetic switch is to make cells start producing TRAIL, short for Tumour-Necrosis-Factor-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand. Yeah, scientists suck at acronyms, but they make up for it in the “making cancer kill itself” department:
Experiments showed that TIC10 had potent effects against a variety of tumours, including breast, lymphatic, colon and lung cancer. It was especially effective at triggering cell suicide in glioblastoma, a kind of brain tumour that is notoriously difficult to treat2. Mice with glioblastomas that were treated with TIC10 in combination with bevacizumab — a drug used against diseases including brain tumours, and sold under the name Avastin — survived three times as long as untreated mice. Even mice treated with TIC-10 alone still had better survival rates (6% longer) than those treated with bevacizumab alone.
TIC-10 succeeds where others fail because it’s tiny, and thus easily able to go anywhere in the body, even into the brain. In fact, researchers weren’t expecting the mice with the freaky brain cancers to get better and were taken by surprise when that actually happened.
This is still in the early stages, and TRAIL-based treatments have failed in human trials in the past. And there’s still the possibility that this might, uh, run amok in your system and kill you. But this is still good news, and it may be the first step to spanking cancer for good.