Breaking Science: Is This The End of Cancer?

22nd January 2020

Scientists at Cardiff University may have discovered a new 'one-size-fits-all' cure to cancer!

While their findings have yet to be trialled on human patients, this new research has the potential to be absolutely groundbreaking. This unbelievable research started with the incredible thing that is our immune system.

The scientists behind this project wanted to exploit a previously unresearched mechanism that our immune system uses to naturally attack tumours. They found a particular immune cell, or T-cell, in our blood which is able to attack a wide range of cancers.

This T-cell has receptors which can 'sniff out' things that don't belong, which in this case is a cancer cell. During lab tests, this T-cell was able to seek out and destroy lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney and cervical cancer cells.

The T-cell can 'smell' the MR1 molecule. This molecule exists on the surface of all human cells, but in the trials, healthy humans cells were left untouched! The reason for this is still to be confirmed, but it is believed that when the metabolism of cancerous cells is disturbed, the MR1 molecule flags it as being unhealthy.

A previous cancer treatment which uses T-cells, CAR-T, has been highly effective but only on a small range of cancers and hasn't been able to kill off cells within a tumour. This new T-cell treatment has the potential to be used on all cancer types, which would be revolutionary.

If this treatment becomes viable, a patient with cancer would have a sample of blood taken and their T-cells would be isolated. Scientists could then alter their genes so that they are able to recognise the cancerous MR1 receptor. These adapted, super T-cells could then be injected back in so they can get to work.

While it is a very exciting progression in cancer research, it is too early on to confirm that it will definitely work. It is, however, very clear that we are advancing quickly in medical research and that cancer should watch its back!

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