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New compound kills cancer without harming healthy cells

It is now possible to induce cancer cell suicide without damaging healthy cells. Scientists have developed a small molecule that directly triggers suicide in cancer cells without harming healthy cells. In the journal Cancer Cell, researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY, explain how they tested the molecule, called BAX Trigger Site Activator 1 (BTSA1), on acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells. They note that BTSA1 “promptly induces” a type of cell suicide called apoptosis “in AML cell lines and patient samples.” Apoptosis is an essential process through which the body rids itself of malfunctioning or unwanted cells. For example, as the embryo grows, apoptosis helps to trim excess tissue. Some chemotherapy drugs activate apoptosis indirectly when they damage DNA in cancer cells. Need for new anti-cancer therapies There is an urgent need for more effective treatments for AML, which is a type of leukemia that kills more than 10,000 people in the United States every year, and whose 5-year survival rate has remained at around 30 percent for decades. While the study deals specifically with AML, the team believes that the approach might work for other types of cancer.–Agencies

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