Scientists in Germany published a surprising discovery about how a protein which communicates between cells also prevents cancerous tumours from growing.
Interferon beta is already used in some cancer therapies, but the finding about the method it uses to block cancer does not, as yet, suggest any new way for doctors to use it as a drug, they warned.
"Interferon beta stops tumours from connecting to the blood system," said Jadwiga Jablonska of the Helmholtz Centre for infection research HZI in the northern city of Braunschweig. "We absolutely were not expecting this effect on tumours."
Enables communication between cells
Interferon beta has been long known for enabling communication between cells. This can trigger the immune system during viral infections and other inflammation. But it now seems capable of interfering with substances known as growth factors in tumours. Without a blood supply, a tumour cannot grow.
The German research has been published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
HZI made the finding after injecting tumour cells into two groups of mice, one of which could not synthesise interferon beta.
The tumours grew much faster in the latter group, whereas they were slower and could not metastasize as fast in the first group. - (Sapa, April 2010)