Part of the myosin structure, atoms in the heavy chain are colored red on the left-hand side, and atoms in the light chains are colored orange and yellow. (Photo : David S. Goodsell of The Scripps Research Institute)
The horror of cancer - and part of what makes it so tricky to fight - is that the disease is fundamentally internal to the patient. Unlike viral and bacterial infections, which are triggered by external microbial matter invading the host, cancer is the unchecked multiplication of faulty cells. As a result, treatment options typically involve inflicting brutal damage on the sick patient in the hopes of defeating the disease. Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy and the gruesome side effect of chemotherapy killing healthy cells are but two examples of this.
Now, a breaking development by researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia may change that. According to Healthline and originally published in Cancer Research, a new chemotherapy drug, T100, will begin human testing in 2015 and could fundamentally alter the way cancer is treat. That's because this one targets the structure of cancerous cells, causing them to self-destruct while healthy cells remain intact.
Cells - like people - need internal structures to remain functional. For people, that structure is our skeleton. On the cellular level, it means interlocking cables made of myosin and actin. Since myosin is found in both healthy and cancerous cells, a chemotherapy treatment based on targeting for myosin has been long considered ineffective. But myosin special Dr. Peter Gunning was able to successfully isolate two kinds of myosin - called tropomyosins - that cancerous cells use but healthy muscle cells do not.
T100 is able to isolate tropomyosin cells and destroy them, while leaving the healthy cells intact. Once the tropomyosins are destroyed, the body initiates "cell death", which is exactly what it sounds like.
While a promising step forward, it's far from a miracle cure. For one, tropomyosin isn't only in cancerous cells; it's also in stem cells. Stem cells are the cells responsible for building new tissue; bone marrow (which produces new red blood cells) and the brain (which produces new nerve cells, for memory formation) are examples of parts of the body where tropomyosin is integral.
Still, it's a big step forward for the medical community.