Johns Hopkins researcher designs self-destruct switch for cancer cells

Currently, researchers in the cancer field are actively engaged in developing new treatments that carefully target cancer cells, leaving healthy tissue alone. Treatments like the armed antibody T-DM1 show enormous potential for steering clear of healthy tissue and blasting cancer cells with heavy doses of toxic chemicals.

But a researcher at Johns Hopkins is working on a novel theory that could take that targeted approach and go one better. Working with cells in the lab, Marc Ostermeier says that he's created protein switches that can identify an inactivated chemotherapy, turn it on and generate the cancer-killing therapy inside the marked cell, causing it to self destruct.

"The switch in effect turns the cancer cell into a factory for producing the anti-cancer drug inside the cancer cell," said Marc Ostermeier, a Johns Hopkins chemical and biomolecular engineering professor. "The healthy cells will also receive the prodrug, and ideally it will remain in its non-toxic form. Our hope is that this strategy will kill more cancer cells while decreasing the unfortunate side effects on healthy cells."

At this stage, Ostermeier's approach has yet to begin animal studies, which are slated to begin in about a year. But once a new generation of cancer drugs takes its place in the market, a next-gen approach like this will be in line promising to create the next big wave years from now.

- here's the press release