November 24 (Independent) – A group of scientists have discovered a “more elegant chemotherapy” that can accurately target cancerous cells in a first in the battle against the disease.
The research successfully killed cancerous cells while leaving healthy ones around it using a technique which relies on DNA editing tools.
The technology has already been used in mice and could be used on humans as soon as within the next two years, the scientists said.
Professor Dan Peer, a cancer expert from Israel’s Tel Aviv University, explained that there are “no side effects” and they believe that a “cancer cell treated in this way will never become active again,” according to the Times of Israel.
“This technology can extend the life expectancy of cancer patients and we hope, one day, cure the disease.”
The study by scientists from Tel Aviv University, New York University and Harvard Medical School was published in the journal Science Advances.
The scientists claim that it is the first time in the world that Crispr genome editing technology, which works by cutting out a section of DNA, has been effectively used to treat cancer in an animal.
Professor Peer explained that if this technology is used then within three treatments “we can destroy a tumour” as it can “physically cut the DNA in cancerous cells, and those cells will not survive.”
He admitted the technology needs to be “further developed”, but said the key point from the current study is that they have shown that it can “kill cancer cells”.
The scientists noted that mice with cancer who received the treatment had double the life expectancy and their survival rate was 30 per cent higher compared to the control group.
Professor Peer highlighted that once adapted for humans, this treatment could be highly personalised and customised to each patient given, as a general injection or an injection directly into the tumour.
For the study, the researchers focussed on two of the deadliest cancers – metastatic ovarian cancer and glioblastoma, which is an aggressive kind of brain cancer. In glioblastoma, the life expectancy and survival rate is generally very low.
But, according to the study, the injection against glioblastoma led to “inhibited tumour growth by 50 per cent” and “improved survival by 30 per cent” while in case of ovarian tumour it “increased survival by 80 per cent.”
“The ability to disrupt gene expression in vivo in tumours opens new avenues for cancer treatment and research and potential applications for targeted gene editing of noncancerous tissues,” said the study.