19 January 2017

HEALTH - Elephant Protein Destroys Cancer Cells

Utah researchers say a protein discovered in elephants appears to attack and destroy cancer cells found in humans.

(Dr. Schiffman, by August Miller)
Dr. Joshua Schiffman, Medical Director of the High Risk Pediatric Cancer Clinic at Huntsman Cancer Institute, hypothesized several years ago the reason elephants rarely get cancer is because they have more, and slightly different, p53 protein than other mammals.

Elephants have 40 copies of p53 and almost no cancer, whereas humans only have 2 copies with 50% lifetime risk for cancer.

His team began working with elephant blood, but researchers have since developed a synthetic form of p53 and are injecting that into human cancer cells in petri dishes.

"What we've found is that the cancer cells are all dying very quickly when they're exposed to this elephant cancer protein," Schiffman told KSL.com.

It is quickly destroying the cells in the seven cancers, including lung, breast and bone, they have tested it on so far.

Schiffman is now working with Avi Schroeder, an assistant chemical engineering professor at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, to manufacture the protein in nanoparticles to begin preclinical testing.

Nanoparticles will enable them to deliver the protein directly to the tumour site.

His team is already developing a test for mice and hope to test it on pet dogs with cancer as well.

Human testing will follow, something Schiffman hopes will occur within three years.

While this is not a cure for cancer, the early results are promising and researchers say it’s working better than they imagined.

Watching the p53 destroy cancer cells for the first time was "probably one of the most thrilling experiences I've ever had as my career in medicine," Schiffman said.

The Hunstman Institute will need to raise millions of dollars to complete the animal and then human trials.

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