An Indian-origin boy in the UK has claimed to have found a treatment for breast cancer, which is unresponsive to drugs. Krtin Nithiyanandam (16), hopes he has found a way to change triple negative breast cancer to respond to drugs.
Breast cancers that are driven by hormones such as estrogen and progesterone and other chemicals can be blocked with effective treatments such as tamoxifen. But, the deadly type of triple negative breast cancer does not have receptors and it can only be treated with a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy which lowers the chances of survival.
‘The 16-year-old discovered that upping the activity of a tumor suppressor gene called PTEN allows chemotherapy to work more effectively against the triple negative breast cancer.’
"I've been basically trying to work out a way to change difficult-to-treat cancers into something that responds well to treatment. Most cancers have receptors on their surface which bind to drugs like Tamoxifen, but triple negative doesn't have receptors, so the drugs don't work," said Krtin.
"The prognosis for women with undifferentiated cancer isn't very good so the goal is to turn the cancer back to a state where it can be treated. The ID4 protein actually stops undifferentiated stem cell cancers from differentiating, so you have to block ID4 to allow cancer to differentiate."
"I have found a way to silence the genes that produce ID4 which turns cancer back into a less dangerous state," Krtin added.
Some women with triple-negative breast cancer respond to the treatment, while some don't. It is because the cancer cells are differentiated or undifferentiated.
If the cancer cells are differentiated, they look more like healthy cells and they tend to grow and multiply slow and are less aggressive. However, undifferentiated cancer cells are in a primitive form never turning into recognizable breast tissue and spread quickly, leading to high-grade tumors. Krtin discovered that increasing the activity of a tumor suppressor gene called PTEN allows chemotherapy to work more effectively.
This discovery got him through the final of the UK-based young scientist's program titled The Big Bang Fair. Last year, Krtin had won the Google Science Fair for creating a test which helps pick up the early signs of Alzheimer's disease and potentially stop it spreading further.