Is sickle cell disease deadly for cancer cells?

Oncologists from a private research company managed to put a deadly dangerous disease – sickle cell anemia at the service of the body in the fight against cancer.

Sickle cell anemia is a genetic, life-threatening disease.

It is characterized by the fact that the erythrocytes /red blood cells/ have a modified shape, and therefore, firstly, they transport oxygen molecules to the tissues inefficiently, and secondly, they are not elastic enough and can get stuck in the small blood vessels and make it difficult to supply the tissues with nutrients.

The scientists managed to direct the modified erythrocytes directly against the malignant cells, which led to their death.

This opens completely new horizons in the methods of treating malignant tumors, such as prostate and breast cancer, which often do not respond to radiation and chemotherapy and are very aggressive.

Scientists were surprised by the discovery, because malignant tumors are actively growing formations that are initially in a state of hypoxia /that is, lack of oxygen/, therefore they are particularly sensitive to any disturbance in the blood supply.

In the experiment carried out by the researchers, modified erythrocytes were used, marked with fluorochrome, that is, a light marker, and they were administered to mice with breast cancer.

A special camera was attached to the body of the rodents to provide an opportunity to observe the changes in the body of the experimental animals.

After 5 minutes, sickled erythrocytes began to accumulate in the blood vessels of the tumor, and after 30 minutes they were completely blocked.

Why does this happen?

Scientists hypothesize that the altered erythrocytes are directed to the malignant tissue because the cancer cells, in response to the lack of oxygen, form a huge amount of adhesion molecules that function as a biological glue in which sickle-shaped red blood cells.

Adhering to tumor cells, erythrocytes inevitably break down and release iron-containing compounds that are toxic to malignant cells.

In order to enhance the destructive effect, scientists attached zinc compounds to the sickled erythrocytes.

This slowed tumor growth fourfold compared to mice treated with normal blood cells. At the same time, therapy with sickled erythrocytes did not have a significant toxic effect on the body as a whole.

Animal studies in this direction will certainly continue, before scientists move on to clinical trials of this therapy.

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