Scientists have long been looking for a therapy that can selectively target cancer cells, leaving other cells in our bodies unharmed but could not come up with some treatment, until now.
Researchers have now taken a big step forward as they have successfully created the first computerized genome-scale model of cancer cell metabolism, which can be used to predict which drugs are lethal to the function of a cancer cell's metabolism.
By inhibiting their unique metabolic signatures, explained Prof. Eytan Ruppin of Tel Aviv University's Blavatnik School of Computer Science and Sackler Faculty of Medicine, cancer cells can be killed off in a specific and selective manner.
The efficacy of this method has been demonstrated in both computer and laboratory models pertaining to kidney cancer. Because the researchers' new approach is generic, it holds promise for future investigations aimed at effective drug therapies for other types of cancer as well.
The ability to specifically target cancer cells is the holy grail of cancer research.
Cancer cells have a special way of metabolising nutrients for growth and for energy. This makes cancer cell metabolism essentially different from that of a normal cell.
To test their predictions, the researchers chose to target cells from a specific type of renal cancer.
"In this type of renal cancer, we predicted that using a drug that would specifically inhibit the enzyme HMOX, involved in Heme metabolism, would selectively and efficiently kill cancer cells, leaving normal cells intact," explained Ruppin.
Their computer model led them to hypothesize that the Heme pathway was essential for the cancer cell's metabolism.
The study has been detailed in journal Nature.