Scientists believe they have found a protein, which they describe as a “game-changer” for cancer treatment. The breakthrough discovery by researchers in the UK is previously unknown protein molecule that “turbo-charges” the immune system, so that it can fight off any cancer.
The finding which now offers millions of patients a fresh hope for curing cancer was in fact discovered by accident, as researchers didn’t exactly knew what they were looking for. When the body faces an infection, normally its immune system comes to the rescue. But when it is a serious infection, a chronic disease or any type of cancer, these virus-fighting cells, called cytotoxic T cells, simply can’t multiply in large enough quantities. As a result, we get sick. But mice tests showed that for some reason some animals simply produce 10 times as many of these cells than others. These mice were able to resist cancer better. But how were they different?
Researchers at Imperial College London, who led the study, found that the mice with enhanced immune system had high levels of a strange, unknown before protein. They call it lymphocyte expansion molecule, or LEM, and say that it looks and acts like no other protein. In fact, it has no known function at all. However, LEM promotes the spread of the cancer-fighting T cells. In fact, their production increases so drastically, that they can detect, hunt down, and destroy any virus or cancer in the body. The protein also helps the system produce “memory” cells, which recognize infections seen before.
Now scientists say this protein is also found in humans and they are working on a gene therapy that will one day be able to boost the immune system of cancer patients. Although clinical trials may be three years away, researchers are optimistic. They explain that T cells of cancer patients will be enhanced with LEM and then injected back into the body. If this actually works, it will end chemotherapy and surgery as the body will be able to fight off cancer or any other serious infections on its own. And one day, it could be an effective cure for all cancers.