A new treatment for cancer could save thousands more lives, and in some cases, help people recover.
A breakthrough treatment that works with the immune system could offer hope for those battling cancer and may even prevent some people from dying from the disease, according to researchers at the University of Michigan.
Researchers at the university’s College of Dentistry and Oral Health say the treatment could be an effective, long-term way to keep people from succumbing to the disease.
“What we’re saying is we can use the immune-mediated mechanisms of the body to fight off cancer,” said Dr. William J. Kowalski, lead author of the research and a professor in the College of Dental Medicine.
“And this is the first time we’ve seen something that we think works on both the immunosuppressive and inflammatory pathways of cancer, so that’s really exciting.”
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), looked at a treatment called CRISPR-Cas9, which uses genetic modifications to create proteins that target a specific gene.
The scientists created a mouse model to study the immune response to the new treatment, and found that it led to increased levels of a protein called tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha).
“The CRISPS gene itself has been found to be linked to inflammation,” Kowalkski said.
“So if we’re able to modify the CRISP gene, then it may lead to the development of TNF-α, which is then able to increase inflammation.”
“That’s pretty exciting, especially because this could be potentially useful in preventing the progression of this disease,” he said.
The researchers also found that a treatment using a genetic modification called CRITERMS that changes the way the body produces proteins to help fight the disease is equally effective.
It’s an important step in the development, said co-author and associate professor of orthodontics and oral surgery Dr. Jonathan Lott, an associate professor at the College.
But he cautioned that this treatment is not for everyone.
“I think this is going to be very interesting for those who do have cancer, and we’ve been using CRISPs as a treatment for a long time,” he told ABC News.
“The thing is that if you’re using CRITERS for other conditions that you might have that have a different set of parameters, then you might not be as effective as you might think.
So the goal of this is to make sure that you don’t get sick.”
Dr. Lott said the findings could lead to more personalized treatment for patients with cancer, especially if the treatment targets a specific type of cancer.
“We’re very interested in finding new ways to target the same protein to different targets, so we’re looking at this as a possible avenue to do that,” he explained.
“That is to say, you might target a protein that has some anti-inflammatory properties, and if you can find that, you could target it with a CRISPG gene and get an anti-cancer effect.”
The treatment works on two levels.
One, it’s effective in the immune process.
In some cases that means it prevents the cancer cells from attacking the tissue.
Another, it has the ability to target specific proteins in the body that are involved in inflammation.
The researchers believe that the treatment can be administered in the mouth.
Dr. Koopalski said it could also be used to treat a person who is not currently diagnosed with cancer.
The study was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.