A team of researchers in Augusta, Georgia is using oxidative stress to kill
cancerous tumors in mice.
“Oxidative stress” is a phenomenon that occurs when the body is unable to
counteract or detoxify the harmful effects of free radicals. Cancer often
utilizes this method to damage and kill healthy cells.
And while cancer cells have a high tolerance for oxidative stress, they are
not completely immune to it.
Dr. Gang Zhou and his team are using T-cell therapy to produce
high levels of oxidative stress that essentially force cancerous cells to
explode. You can think of it as death by force-feeding.
Here are a few terms that will help you understand how the method
T-cell: the type of white blood cell that makes it possible for the immune
system to defend against a previously-encountered disease.
Adoptive T-cell therapy: a new cancer treatment that involves the
introduction of specialized T-cells designed to boost a patient’s immune
system to the point where it can defeat a tumor.
Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα): a cell-signaling protein involved in
systemic inflammation – known to play a role in cell death and tumor
Here’s how the method works:
Mice undergo chemotherapy and are then treated with adoptive T-cell
therapy. The combined treatments stymie the natural production of
antioxidants, which leads to extreme levels of oxidative stress and the
production of tumor necrosis factor alpha.
According to results published last month in the journal Cell Metabolism,
this method has been successful in shrinking tumors in mice models of
colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and lymphoma.
“We started by asking questions about how immunotherapy can change the
metabolism of tumor cells,” says Zhou. The study suggests that “tumor
necrosis factor alpha can act directly on tumor cells and induce [oxidative
stress] inside them.”
And while oxidative stress seemed to be the key factor in destroying cancer
cells, Zhou’s team also noted the effects of TNFα, which is known to restrict
tumors’ blood supply.
In conclusion, Zhou’s team suggested that future studies be focused on
increasing our understanding of the behavior of T cells and improving
immunotherapy’s potential to destroy cancer.