A team of Australian researchers have discovered a new method to fight colon and stomach cancer. Their technique involves inhibiting a protein that cancer cells use to rapidly reproduce.
\"Our discovery could potentially offer a new and complementary approach to chemotherapy and immunotherapy as options for treating gastrointestinal cancers,\" said professor Matthias Ernst, scientific director at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, in a statement.
Hematopoietic cell kinase (HCK) is an enzyme that helps stem cells become blood cells – hematopoietic cells are the stem cells that all blood cells start as. One type of blood cells that HCK helps to code are macrophages, \"big eater\" white blood cells whose job is to consume and destroy anything that impedes healthy blood, such as cellular debris, microbes and cancer cells.
The solution was simple. By injecting a small drug-like molecule that acts as an HCK inhibitor, the team found that tumor growth stopped cold in the animals they were testing.
Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest form of cancer in the United States, losing only to lung cancer. It is notoriously resistant to conventional forms of treatment.
This treatment is still in preclinical trials, however, and is nowhere near viability as a cancer drug. But the research does show promise for the future treatment of colon cancer as well as for stomach cancer, which is rarer but has a very high mortality rate.