Cancer cells are destroyed in just 3 days thanks to a new technique against cancer.
are relentless, possess the ability to develop resistance to current therapies and make the disease very difficult to treat. However, a new study may have identified the cancer’s weak spot, its
. So much so that the discovery has already led to the eradication of the disease in cell cultures.
The study, published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, reveals how altering the chromatin structure of cancer cells could facilitate their destruction. The job of chromatin (the form in which DNA is presented in the nucleus of cells) is to carefully package the genetic code in the nucleus of the cell. You can also regulate which genes are ‘turned on and off’. In cancer cells, however, chromatin helps cancer cells evolve, allowing them to survive.
“If you think of genetics as hardware, chromatin is the software,” explains Vadim Backman, co-author of the paper. “Complex diseases such as cancer do not depend on the behaviour of individual genes, but on the complex interaction between tens of thousands of genes“.
So the experts decided to focus on chromatin as a key tool for combating cancer drug resistance, and an imaging technique they developed last year helped them learn more about this intricate set of macromolecules.
New technique against cancer
The new technique is called partial-wave microscopy and allows real-time monitoring of chromatin in living cells, being able to assess chromatin on a length scale of 20-200 nanometers, the precise point at which cancer formation influences chromatin.
Using this novel technique to monitor chromatin in cultured cancer cells, they discovered that chromatin has a specific “packing density” related to gene expression that helps cancer cells evade treatments.
The analysis revealed that a more heterogeneous and disordered packing density of chromatin resulted in increased survival of cancer cells in response to chemotherapy. However, a more conservative and orderly packing density was associated with greater cancer cell death in response to chemotherapy .
“Just by looking at the chromatin structure of the cell, we could predict whether or not it would survive,” Backman says.
Combining both drugs with chemotherapy, they tested them on cancer cells in the lab. The result was more than surprising:
“Within 2 or 3 days, almost all the cancer cells died because they could not respond. The CPT compounds – Celecoxib and Digoxin – do not kill the cells, but restructure the chromatin. If you block the cells’ ability to evolve and adapt, that’s their Achilles’ heel,” says Backman.
While the researchers are enthusiastic about their findings, they caution that animal and human studies are needed before firm conclusions can bedrawn.
“There’s a big difference between cell cultures and human cultures. You never know how the environment inside the human body will affect the behavior of the cancer or whether there will be unforeseen side effects,” Backman explains.
Be that as it may, it looks really promising.
Reference: Macrogenomic engineering via modulation of the scaling of chromatin packing density. Luay M. Almassalha, Greta M. Bauer et al. Nature Biomedical Engineering (2017) DOI: doi:10.1038/s41551-017-0153-2