Researchers say they’ve situated a “kill switch” that may trigger the death of cancer cells.
Scientists on the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center in Sacramento, California, have identified a protein on the CD95 receptor that may “program” cancer cells to die, as detailed in a study published within the journal Cell Death & Differentiation last month.
A receptor is a protein inside a cell that receives and transmits signals.
CD95 receptors — also known as Fas — have gained the nickname “death receptors” because they send a signal that causes cancer cells to “self-destruct,” in accordance with a press release from UC Davis.
“Previous efforts to focus on this receptor have been unsuccessful. But now that we’ve identified this epitope (goal), there could possibly be a therapeutic path forward to focus on Fas in tumors,” Jogender Tushir-Singh, an associate professor within the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and senior creator of the study, said in the discharge.
Experts are hopeful that future cancer drugs could boost the activity of those CD95 receptors to create a latest weapon against cancer tumors, which have been treated historically with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Immune-based therapies, comparable to CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cell therapy, have shown promise for a subset of patients, but have had limited effectiveness against many cancer types.
“Despite being decently successful in liquid tumors, comparable to leukemia spectrum cancers, long-term remission stays the most important challenge for CAR T-cell therapies,” Tushir-Singh told Fox News Digital in an email.
The larger challenge with this therapy — which usually costs $500,000 or more — is that it has only shown “meager success” in treating solid tumors, the researcher noted.
“Our study strongly provides a comprehensive takeaway and potential solution to rework the meager success of CAR-T therapies into potentially successful [therapies for] solid tumors.”
The newly discovered “kill switch” could terminate tumor cells while also helping to make immunotherapies simpler — “a possible one-two punch against tumors,” the discharge stated.
To date, no CD95-boosting drugs have made it into clinical trials.
“Despite many breakthroughs within the cancer immunotherapeutic field, targeting Fas stays neglected, primarily as a result of fear of retaliation against immune-system T-cells,” Tushir-Singh told Fox News Digital.
The study did have some limitations — namely, there is proscribed data from clinical trials, the researcher noted.
Tushir-Singh identified, nevertheless, that cancer researchers can now return and collect human tumor samples from clinical trials and perform latest analyses in light of those findings.
“It is clear that the success of CAR-T therapy relies on off-target killing by Fas,” he told Fox News Digital.
“With the present information, we researchers and doctors should screen potential cancer patients — who can be undergoing CAR-T therapy — to envision for the great presence of Fas on their tumors,” he went on.
“If a patient lacks Fas expression in his or her tumors, we’d like to seek out ways to securely manipulate these tumors and begin making them Fas before giving costly CAR therapies. The latter would likely make the CARs stronger in long-term efficacy.”
Looking ahead, Tushir-Singh said he’s eager for the longer term of cancer treatments.
“Because of the arrival of cancer immunotherapy and other targeted therapies, cancer rates overall prior to now a long time have decreased significantly,” he said.
“I read every single day the outstanding research that is occurring within the U.S. to beat cancer. People should stay positive.”
Added Tushir-Singh, “The subsequent breakthrough is only one experiment away.”