A molecule that is found naturally in the immune system could kill cancer cells, a research has suggested.

Scientists at King’s College London exposed colorectal tumours to the β-galactoside-binding protein (βGBP) in the laboratory.
They found the protein has “tumour-suppressing properties” which trigger the “suicide” of malignant cells.

βGBP is also thought to make the tumour more visible to the immune system, which then launches an anti-cancer response to prevent it from returning.

The scientists believe their study “could open a new therapeutic opportunity” that would be a “significant step forward in the management of cancer”.

“Treatments have come a long way in recent decades,” the scientists wrote in the British Journal of Cancer. Chemo, a go-to therapy for cancer, works to kill malignant cells by stopping them from reproducing.

This prevents tumours from growing and spreading around the body. However, chemo can cause nasty side effects like vomiting, fatigue and hair loss. It also does not work for all patients. Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that boosts the body’s natural defence to fight cancer. It uses substances made by the body or in the laboratory to improve or restore immune system function.

The lead author, Prof. Livio Mallucci, said, “By contrast, the anti-tumour property of βGBP is selective and not harmful to normal cells, adding that βGBP is a form of immunotherapy which works with a patient’s immune system to help them fight the disease. The scientists hope βGBP will be studied in trials in the near future.