Researchers in Copenhagen and British Columbia may have accidentally found the cure for cancer while working on a malaria vaccine for pregnant women. The combination of a malaria protein and toxin finds cancer cells, is absorbed, then the toxin is released inside, causing the cancer cells to die.
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK — Scientists researching for a vaccine against malaria in pregnant women may have accidentally discovered an effective weapon against cancer.
Scientists from the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) and the University of British Columbia (UBC) may have found a breakthrough in fighting cancer, which could result in a medical treatment for those affected with the deadly disease.
Malaria researcher Professor Ali Salanti from UCPH in collaboration with cancer researcher Mads Daugaard from UBC have revealed that the carbohydrate the malaria parasite attaches itself to in the placenta in pregnant women is identical to a carbohydrate present in cancer cells.
Scientists have created the protein that the malaria parasite uses to attach to the placenta in a laboratory and have added a toxin.
The combination of malaria protein and toxin finds cancer cells, is absorbed, then the toxin is released inside, causing the cancer cells to die.
The process has been witnessed in cell cultures and in trials of mice with cancer. The discovery has been detailed in the scientific journal Cancer Cell.
“For decades, scientists have been searching for similarities between the growth of a placenta and a tumor. The placenta is an organ, which within a few months grows from only few cells into an organ weighing approx. two pounds, and it provides the embryo with oxygen and nourishment in a relatively foreign environment. In a manner of speaking, tumors do much the same, they grow aggressively in a relatively foreign environment,” says Ali Salanti from the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at the University of Copenhagen.
Research groups from the two universities have tested thousands of samples from brain tumors to leukemias and have found that the malaria protein is able to attack more than 90% of all types of tumors.
The drug was tested on mice implanted with three types of human tumors: non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer and metastatic bone cancer. With the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the treated mice tumors were about a quarter of the size of the tumors in the control group. With prostate cancer, the tumors disappeared in two of the six treated mice a month after receiving the first dose. With metastatic bone cancer, five out of six of the mice treated were alive after nearly eight weeks, compared to none of the mice in a control group.
Researchers are now working towards being able to conduct human trials. They say the earliest possible timeframe would be in four years.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.