The breakthrough stems from a discovery professor of radiation medicine Vivek Rangnekar and a team of researchers who found a tumour-suppressor gene called "Par-4" in the prostate. The researchers discovered that the Par-4 gene kills cancer cells, but not normal cells. There are very few molecules that specifically fight against cancer cells, giving it a potentially therapeutic application.

Rangnekar's study is unique in that mice born with this gene are not developing tumours. The mice grow normally and have no defects. In fact, the mice possessing Par-4 actually live a few months longer than the control animals, indicating that they have no toxic side effects. "We originally discovered Par-4 in the prostate, but it's not limited to the prostate. The gene is expressed in every cell type that we've looked at and it induces the death of a broad range of cancer cells, including of course, cancer cells in the prostate," said Rangnekar.

The implications for humans could be that through bone marrow transplantation, the Par-4 molecule could potentially be used to fight cancer cells in patients without the toxic and damaging side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. "When a cancer patient goes to the clinic, they undergo chemotherapy or radiation and there are potential side effects associated with these treatments," Rangnekar said. "We got interested in looking for a molecule which will kill cancer cells and not kill normal cells, but also would not be toxic with regard to the production of side effects to the entire organism. We are thinking of this in a holistic approach that not only would get rid of the tumour, but also not harm the organism as a whole. Before this animal study, we published a lot of work indicating that in cell culture, there's no killing of normal cells. This study is the proof."; Source: University of Kentucky