Human glioblastoma multiforme, one of the most common, aggressive and deadly forms of brain cancer, is notoriously difficult to study. Scientists have traditionally studied cancer cells in petri dishes, which have none of the properties of the brain tissues in which these cancers grow, or in expensive animal models.
Thanks to a new $2 million investment, a drug that spurs cancer cells to self-destruct while sparing healthy cells is on the road to human clinical trials. The compound, known as PAC-1, has so far proven safe and has promising anti-cancer effects in cell culture, in mouse models of cancer and in pet dogs with spontaneously occurring lymphomas and osteosarcomas.
Researchers report they have figured out how the cancer-causing bacterium Helicobacter pylori attacks a cell’s energy infrastructure, sparking a series of events in the cell that ultimately lead it to self-destruct.
H. pylori are the only bacteria known to survive in the human stomach. Infection with the bacterium is associated with an increased risk of gastric cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide.