Researchers at the Max Planck Institute have demonstrated an intriguing new way to fight cancer by introducing molecular fibers into cells. While harmless to healthy cells, once these fibers encounter the specific environment of cancer cells they assemble into webs, activating the tumor’s self-destruct sequence.
Currently, our best weapons against cancer are radiation and chemotherapy, and while reasonably effective they both act more like a shotgun blast than a sniper shot, harming healthy cells at the same time. That causes all sorts of side effects to a patient’s health.
As such, a key avenue of cancer research involves finding ways to specifically target tumors without harming the healthy cells around them. One of the best ways to do that is to take advantage of the unique environment inside cancer cells, and that’s what the new study has tried to do.
“In cancer tissue, the environment is much more acidic than in normal tissue,” says David Ng, lead researcher on the study. “In addition, much more highly reactive oxidative molecules are found within the cancer cells due to the cancer’s increased metabolic activity – and we take advantage of that.”