Health Scan: TAU researchers find new way to target and kill cancer cells

“We believe we have identified a new and highly effective mechanism for treating cancer that may be suitable for a variety of malignant tumors.”

Tel Aviv University (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
Tel Aviv University
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
A way to harness a natural rapid-death mechanism that exists in every cell and protects against cell division errors so cancer cells can be eliminated has been developed at Tel Aviv University and elsewhere.
Prof. Malka Cohen-Armon of the physiology and pharmacology department of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine led the work, in cooperation with Prof. Shai Yizraeli and Dr. Talia Golan at the Cancer Research Center at Sheba Medical Center and Hadassah University Medical Center’s Prof. Tamar Peretz and colleagues.
The research has just been published in the journal Oncotarget.
“As early as 2009, we discovered that molecules that are derivatives of phenyridin (three-ring carbons) effectively kill cells of metastatic breast cancer that do not respond to conventional therapies,” said Cohen-Armon.
“We then tested the effect of molecules on resistant cells taken from other types of human malignant tumors – ovarian cancer, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer and rare types of brain cancer and lung cancer. We found that these molecules kill all of them very effectively within 48 to 96 hours. We found that the procedure did no damage to healthy cells and that the cancerous cell was damaged during the cell division (mitosis) stage.”
To reveal the mechanism by which phenyridine is derived from the cancer cell, the researchers scanned the phenyridine response of all proteins in the cell known to be related to cell division. In this way, they identified a number of specific proteins that undergo change under the influence of phenyridine only in the cancerous cell, while in the healthy cell they do not respond to it at all.
“In a proper division, the chromosomes of the mother cell replicate precisely, and the two chromosome systems that are formed are aligned against each other across the width of a two-pole spindle that is created in the mother’s cell,” explained Cohen-Armon.
The chromosomes of the pancreatic cancer disrupt the activity, resulting in a small spindle in the cancerous cell with scattered chromosomes. To prevent abnormal cell division following the malfunction, the cell “commits suicide,” triggering a natural mechanism of rapid death in any cell that does not divide properly, thus destroying the cancer cells. Moreover, since the attack is at the cell-division stage, the efficacy of the treatment increases in cancerous cells that divide at a high rate – usually in particularly violent malignant tumors.”
After examining the mechanism of cell cultures in the laboratory, the researchers sought to test its effectiveness in mice that underwent implantation of human cancer tissue. The result was promising; after the phenyridine treatment, the tumors stopped developing, and about two weeks later, the tumors in the treated mice were significantly smaller than those in the untreated control group.
“We believe we have identified a new and highly effective mechanism for treating cancer that may be suitable for a variety of malignant tumors,” concluded Cohen-Armon.
“We intend to develop molecules that interfere with the protein activity we have identified, thus harnessing the natural mechanism of rapid death at the time of cell division to kill violent cancer cells. Later, we will examine the feasibility of these molecules for use as a drug in humans.”

Hearing their mother’s voice can benefit the health of infants born prematurely, according to a recent review of 15 studies of 512 infants published from 2000 to 2015. Hearing the maternal voice, either recorded or live, was linked with the physiologic and behavioral stabilization of premies, with fewer cardiorespiratory events. The researchers, however, lacked enough evidence to see if there was a long-term effect.
“Preterm infants become more stable when mothers talk and sing to them, with potential clinical benefits on autonomous nervous system maturation,” said Dr. Manuela Filippa, lead author of the Acta Paediatrica study.
“This is an appeal to caring teams for supporting vocal contact between parents and preterm infants, as well as an invitation to investigate its long-term effects on preterm infants’ development.”
People who mix highly caffeinated energy drinks with their alcoholic beverages may be at increased risk for injury, according to a recent review in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
Researchers at the University of Victoria’s Center for Addictions Research in British Columbia in Canada searched for peer-reviewed journal articles on the topic of alcohol and energy drinks published from 1981 to 2016. They found 13 that fit their criteria and were able to be analyzed. Of those, 10 showed evidence of a link between the use of alcohol mixed with energy drinks and an increased risk of injury compared to drinking alcohol only. The study classified injuries as unintentional (such as falls or motor vehicle accidents) and intentional (such as fights or other physical violence).
“The stimulant effects of caffeine mask the result that most people get when they drink,” says lead study author Audra Roemer. “Usually when you’re drinking alcohol, you get tired and go home. Energy drinks mask that, so people may underestimate how intoxicated they are, end up staying out later, consume more alcohol and engage in risky behavior and more hazardous drinking practices.”