This New Drug Turns Cancer’s Secret Addiction Against Itself


National Cancer Institute

While the cells making up the tissues and organs in your body are pretty neighborly, cancer is the person who parks in your parking spot and plants a fence crossing your side of the backyard. Over the last several decades, scientists have discovered ways to exploit and undercut cancer’s selfishness in order to treat those who are suffering. And now they’ve found a new way to punch cancer right in its greedy gut by turning these mutated cells’ addiction to certain elements against them.

In a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine on Wednesday, a team of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco found certain cancer cells harbor a mutation in a gene called KRAS, allowing them to hoard large amounts of iron. The UCSF team took advantage of this iron addiction to develop a novel anti-cancer treatment that can specifically hone in and target certain types of cancer—while sidestepping the infamously debilitating and toxic effects of chemotherapy and similar treatments.

“This is a really great, well thought out approach for targeting cancer cells specifically and it’s actually really promising,” Dr. Hossein Ardehali, a cardiologist at Northwestern University who was not involved with the new study but whose lab is researching the relationship between cancer and iron, told The Daily Beast.

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