Breast Cancer: Body's Immune Protein Kills Cancer Cells
A new study on breast cancer shows that an immune protein in the body is able to identify malignant cells and kill them.
The report in the April 13 Science Translational Medicine, says that the protein, interleukin-25, can distinguish between a normal cell and one that is cancerous. When the protein finds a malignant cell, it instructs the cell to self-destruct. However, it leaves normal cells unharmed.
We found that normal breast cells provide an innate defense mechanism against cancer by producing interleukin 25 (IL25) to actively and specifically kill breast cancer cells, said study author Mina Bissell, of Berkeley Labs Life Sciences Division. This suggests that IL25 receptor signaling may provide a new therapeutic target for the treatment of breast cancer.
Scientists say the discovery could lead to a new breast cancer treatment. They tested the protein on mice and found that those who had breast cancer tumors and were regularly given injections of interleukin-25 remained in the same condition. However, mice that were given a placebo injection had their tumors triple in size.
However, experts note that cancer can affect complex systems in the body. They say further testing needs to be done to see whether the protein can actively search for cancer cells throughout the body.