Researchers at Florida's Mayo Clinic may have found a way to turn off the rapid growth of cancer cells by reprogramming them to replicate less quickly. It's being hailed as a breakthrough in cancer research and one that could lead to new treatments that halt or even reverse tumor growth — if they can apply it to cells outside the lab.
Initial experiments are promising. Using aggressive breast, lung and bladder cancer cells, researchers were able to flip a switch that turned the cancer cells back into normal cells by restoring the function that prevents overgrowth.
A little Biology 101 for those who might have skimmed over that chapter in high school: All cells need to replicate to replace themselves. But cancer cells go haywire, replicating excessively until tumors are formed. In healthy cells, microprocessors tell the cells when to stop dividing, but this function is missing in cancer cells. Researchers found that they could inject these microprocessors directly into the cancer cells to restore the function and essentially put the brakes on cancer cell growth.
So far, the experiments have only been conducted on cancer cells in the lab, but researchers believe that if they can duplicate these results in humans, it could eliminate the need for harsh chemotherapy or other cancer drugs. It could mean that cancer growth and development could be halted — or even reversed.
Lots of research still needs to be done to see how this new finding could be used to treat cancer, but at the moment, scientists are hailing this new study as a "significant step" in understanding how cancer works.