A new drug which scientists predict could kill all types of cancer cells has been developed by an American university.
According to California's Stanford University School of Medicine researchers, a drug has been developed which interrupts CD47, a protein which acts as a 'warning signal' to the human immune system.
The researchers believe the new drug heralds a major advance in the battle against cancer.
The scientists found that cancer cells produce "an inordinate amount" of CD47, effectively tricking the immune system into preserving the cancerous cells. Taking this on board, the research team devised an antibody which blocks CD47, allowing the immune system to deal with the cancer cells properly.
To date, the team has administered the antibody to mice transplanted with human breast, ovary, colon, bladder, brain, liver and prostate tumours.
The outcomes were as forecast every time: prompted by the antibody, the immune system killed the cancerous cells.
The researchers say their initiative promises much for cancer patients, and particularly those suffering from the more aggressive cancers such asmesothelioma.
Lead researcher Irving Weissman commented: "We showed that even after the tumour has taken hold, the antibody can either cure the tumour or slow its growth and prevent metastasis."
With the support of a $20 million grant, Prof Weissman's team will set up the clinical trials necessary formally to proceed with testing. Prior to this they will look at the treatment's side effects, which have so far been negligible.
In some instances healthy cells undergo a brief immune system attack. However, scientists are keen to point out that such an instance is modest in relation to the ravages of cancer.