Scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research have just identified the culprit behind cancer’s ability to spread.
And thanks to their breakthrough discovery, the number of fatal cancer cases has the potential to drop significantly. It’s a sad fact, but in the United States alone, about 560,000 people die of cancer each year.
Of course, first, they need to be able to block the malicious protein spreading the disease.
Well, as it turns out, a drug to block cancer from spreading was already being developed. Scientists just didn’t know it yet.
Let me explain…
Cancer Cells Make “Elbow Room”
During a recent study, scientists concluded that cancer cells are able to escape a tumor in two ways:
1. Cancer cells can “elbow” through the cell matrix by force.
2. Cancer cells can travel through tunnels in the tumor created by healthy cells.
But the great escape in both of these scenarios wouldn’t be possible without a harmful protein called JAK.
Basically, JAK proteins cause cancer cells to flex like a muscle, and eventually find their way out of the tumor. And that’s when harmful cancer cells spread throughout the body.
As Medical News Today puts it, “When JAK is ‘switched on,’ the cancer cell undergoes muscle-like contractions that allows it to move and eventually be squeezed out.”
So scientists realized that the key to stopping cancer in its tracks could be as simple as finding a way to keep JAK proteins switched off.
Luckily, there are already drugs out there capable of doing just that.
Cancer Won’t Be Traveling Much Longer
You see, while JAK’s ability to spread cancer remained unknown until now, this protein’s ability to wreak havoc in our bodies was no mystery.
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Researchers already knew that it’s involved with the development of tumors, along with bone marrow and blood disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and psoriasis.
That’s why drug companies have been developing JAK-inhibiting treatments for years.
YM BioSciences (AMEX: YMI), for instance, engineered CYT387, a drug that’s currently in development to treat a bone marrow disease called myelofibrosis.
CYT387 binds to JAKs and blocks the protein’s “signaling” activity, therefore slowing the abnormal cellular growth.
And now the Institute of Cancer Research hopes that JAK-inhibiting drugs like CYT387 can be used to stop cancer cells from moving around the body, too.
As lead researcher, Chris Marshall, says, “Encouragingly, drugs that block JAK are already in development to stop the growth of tumors. Our new study suggests that such drugs may also stop the spread of cancer.”
Of course, not all JAK inhibitors are ready for primetime yet. CYT387 is still in early clinical trials, but the potential life-saving benefits are obvious.
While this treatment falls short of eliminating the threat of cancer entirely, it represents a giant leap forward in keeping the disease at bay. And since it has the potential to save more than half a million lives in the United States every year, I’d say it’s a pretty good start.
As always, I’ll continue to track all developments on this front. So stay tuned.