Cancer tumors need an abundance of different nutrients to grow. Therefore it would make sense that by cutting off the food supply to cancer tumors, we could successfully inhibit their growth. The problem is, many drugs that try to do this simultaneously negatively impact immune cells in the body. These cells are necessary to fight back against the cancer.
But, a recent study in mice conducted by Jonathan Powell from Johns Hopkins and his colleagues has indicated there may be a drug that can both starve cancer tumors and increase the strength of immune cells.
This is revolutionary. Not only does this treatment not harm immune cells, it essentially makes them more effective. If these findings remain true in humans, it could change the lives of cancer patients with multiple forms of cancer.
The drug works to kill the enzymes which allow cancerous cells to use the amino acids they need to grow. Specifically, the medication focuses on the amino acid called glutamine. Glutamine is essential for cellular metabolism.
The research team based their treatment on an old bacteria-derived compound. The treatment, called DON, had shown promise, but never received FDA approval due to its side effects.
Essentially, Powell and his team found a way to deliver the drug directly to the tumor. In other words, by inserting two chemical groups into the therapy, it stays stable until it reaches the cancerous tumor. This reduces the previously problematic side effects.
These researchers examined their new formulation of DON on four different types of cancer tumors in mice. The therapy worked for all of them and the results were striking.
F colon cancer, untreated tumors grew five times larger in 3 weeks. For treated mice, the tumors were almost completely dissipated in that same time frame. The T cells in the body simply switched to a different source of materials to synthesize the molecules they needed. The tumor cells couldn’t switch. They needed the glutamine.
Researchers are calling it a miracle.
The drug will begin to be tested in human patients in 2020. Hopefully, this discovery will revolutionize cancer treatment.
You can read more about this investigation and revamped drug here.