Killer cells could cure breast cancer

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Researchers at the University of Maastricht have succeeded in curing breast cancer in mice by injecting them with natural killer cells or NK cells. The researchers say there is no reason why the technique should not also work in human beings.

When breast cancer metastasises, a significant number of patients develop resistance to chemotherapy drugs. Although the tumours shrink or even disappear, they grow back and are resistant to existing drug regimens.

Researchers have now discovered that if they inject mice that have incurable tumours with natural killer cells, the NK cells attack the tumours without attacking any other cells in the body. The researchers believe that this could prove to be a possible treatment for women who have incurable breast cancer.

Further studies
The killer cells are isolated from the blood of specially selected donors. The cells, which are not affected by the body's natural defences, are activated by the cancer cells and only attack the tumours.

The University of Maastricht researchers say they expect it will take another five years of research before they are certain that the technique will work in humans and to evaluate the safety of the method. It is possible that the killer cell treatment will be able to be used at a far earlier stage in the progression of breast cancer. It is also possible that it could prove an effective treatment for other types of cancer.


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