Researchers in Singapore have worked out a way to kill intestinal stem cells that may develop into colorectal cancer, the second largest cause of cancer related deaths in western countries.
Writing in the latest issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell, the scientists said this potential method of cancer prevention had to do with the protein Wip 1, which appears to bring down the risk of cancer when it is inactivated.
In their experiment, the researchers cross bred male mice suffering from intestinal polyps with Wip 1-deficient female mice — and their offspring turned out to be relatively cancer free. Intestinal polyps can develop into colorectal cancer over time.
“Presumably they were supposed to develop cancer because they got this bad gene from the fathers, but it is not going to be working because ... (of the good thing from the mothers),” Dmitry Bulavin, principal investigator at Singapore’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, said in a telephone interview.
While the adult male mice each had 70 adenomas in their intestines, their offspring each had only 5 adenomas.
Adenomas are growths in many organs which are benign at first and could progress to become malignant.
Looking ahead, the scientists will work towards narrowing down the particular molecule in Wip 1 that suppresses cancer.
“We are trying to identify this potential molecule that can mimic Wip 1 deficiency ... so hypothetically, if you inject this small molecule, then you would be able to suppress (the development of cancer),” Bulavin said.
“This study is primarily about cancer prevention. If you are a group of people who are predisposed to cancer, you need to have something to suppress the cancer ... you don’t want to have terrible side effects,” he added.
“So if you look at the Wip 1 mice, they live normal life spans, they don’t have accelerated aging and they are cancer resistant.”