Japanese oncologists have used artificial DNA in a whole new way to naturally kill cancer cells by helping the immune system identify them.
The whole reason cancer is as lethal as it is is because the immune system doesn’t act upon cancer cells and tumors, disguised as they are to look like normal cells.
By creating a hairpin-shaped pair of DNA molecules called oHPs, the researchers found a way to expose the cancer to the immune system’s targeting procedure, and thus stop and even reverse human cervical cancer and breast cancer-derived cells, and malignant melanoma in mice.
Nucleic-acid treatments for cancer are inherently risky due to the potential for the host immune system to attack healthy cells carrying the same genes or signals as the cancerous ones.
As normal as they may seem to the immune system, cancer cells don’t function like normal cells. They overproduce or underproduce certain material, in this case the target was an overproduced informational molecule called microRNA-21 (miR-21).
When the artificial oPHs encountered the miR-21, they unwound them, and rejoined to form longer DNA strands which were naturally determined as being dangerous due to their overabundance by the host immune system.
“The results of this study are good news for doctors, drug discovery researchers and cancer patients, as we believe it will give them new options for drug development and medication policies,” said Professor Akimitsu Okamoto from the Graduate School of Engineering, Univ. of Tokyo.
“Next, we will aim for drug discovery based on the results of this research, and examine in detail the drug efficacy, toxicity and potential administration methods.”