While there may never be a “cure” for Cancer, identifying and treating it quickly are a major focus for scientists. Researchers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center have come across a parasite that wipes out Cancer almost entirely, at least in lab tests. How they actually arrived at the parasite, though — that we may not want to know.
The single-cell parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, is typically not good for you. In both humans and cats, it can cause illness. Scientists have now engineered a new strain of the parasite that has the ability to fight (and destroy) Cancer cells.
The Toxoplasma gondii parasite typically thrives in felines, coming to know humans via the litter box. David J. Bzik, a professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Dartmouth says “We know biologically this parasite has figured out how to stimulate the exact immune responses you want to fight cancer”. Speaking to the mutated form of the parasite, senior research associate Barbara Fox says “By gaining preferential access to the inside of powerful innate immune cell types, our mutated strain of T. gondii reprograms the natural power of the immune system to clear tumor cells and cancer.”
That mutated strain is called CPS, and is a Cancer fighting Superhero. It doesn’t replicate, and can still fight Cancerous cells, even in the diminished immune system of a chemotherapy patient. Bzik and his colleagues used CPS to treat ovarian cancer and melanoma in mice, and found a staggeringly high survival rate.
The studies are ongoing, but it seems Scientists see a day when Cancer treatment is both tailored to the patient, and easily administered. “In translating CPS therapy to the clinic, we imagine CPS will be introduced into cells isolated from the patient. Then, Trojan Horse cells harboring cps will be given back to the patient as an immunotherapeutic cancer vaccine to generate the ideal immune responses necessary to eradicate their cancer cells and to also provide life-long immunity against any future recurrence of that cancer” said Bzik.