Cancer Breakthrough: Scientists Find 'Achilles Heel' Of Tumours

04/03/2016 09:44 | Updated 04 March 2016

A breakthrough discovery about cancer tumours could lead to revolutionary "bespoke" treatments for patients, scientists have said.

Researchers have found that tumour cells carry certain biological "flags," proteins, regardless of the location in the body.

cancer cells

T-cells attacking cancer cell

These proteins allow the body's immune system to recognise cancer cells as targets.

What this essentially provides clinicians with are two potential ways to fight cancers.

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In the first scenario, doctors could take a sample of a patient's tumour to identify these "flags" and use it to train the body's immune system to target the cancer cells.

Alternatively, doctors could go hunting for immune cells that already target these "flags," multiply them in the lab and then place them back into the patient.

Professor Charles Swanton, from University College London's Cancer Institute, was part of the team leading the research, funded by Cancer Research UK.

He told the Press Association: "This is exciting ... now we can prioritise and target tumour antigens that are present in every cell, the Achilles heel of these highly complex cancers."

The main problem with cancers is its constantly evolving nature. Swanton explained that as tumours grow and develop, it presents the body with more genetic mutations that enables cancer cells to resist treatment.

He said a tumour evolutionary tree was like a "snowflake or fingerprint" unique to each individual.

The core mutations (at the trunk) branches out to new changes that makes it hard to treat each patient.

However, the new research has highlighted targets present on all tumour cells.

Swanton added: "This is really fascinating and takes personalised medicine to its absolute limit, where each patient would have a unique, bespoke treatment."

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