New tumour-killer shows great promise in suppressing cancers

Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Lund University, Sweden, have bioengineered a novel molecule which has been proven to successfully kill tumour cells.

This molecule is based on a present in , which has been found to have strong and wide-ranging tumour killing properties when bound to certain lipids. Lipids are like amino acids and carbohydrates, made up of carbon and hydrogen, and help to store energy and to form biological membranes.

The protein-lipid molecule complex, is known as HAMLET, which stands for Human Alpha-lactabumin Made Lethal to . It has been proven to be safe and effective as it only targets tumour cells, leaving healthy intact.

HAMLET has most recently been shown to successfully suppress in laboratory mice.

The scientists have also successfully identified and isolated specific components of HAMLET called peptide-oleate bound forms, which have the tumour-killing effect. Peptides are short chain amino acids commonly found in the human body.

These latest breakthroughs are led by Professor Catharina Svanborg and Dr Manoj Puthia from Lund University, Sweden, and Professor Gerhard Grüber from NTU's School of Biological Sciences. The HAMLET complex was first discovered by Professor Svanborg's research group.

The findings were published recently in Gut and in PLoS ONE, two top ranking peer-reviewed academic journals. The researchers found that genetically modified to develop colon cancer, were protected to a large extent when fed with HAMLET-laced water. This suggested that HAMLET was killing emerging tumour cells faster than these cells could grow and proliferate.

On the new concept of a synthetic version of the tumour-killing molecule, Prof Grüber said, "By studying the original protein, we have and will continue to identify key components to make a , a short-chain amino acid, carrying the properties of HAMLET and yet more resilient than the original protein complex."

"By synthetically constructing the key components, this helps the peptide to be much more resilient and to 'survive' in different environments, such as in the human body or in drinking water, which is an ideal delivery medium, before it reaches its tumour target."

The ability to recreate HAMLET in synthetic form opens up possibilities of turning it into a drug to kill tumours.

Next steps

Prof Svanborg, who is a doctor and a scientist, said she had seen promising results from the human trials using HAMLET in Sweden.

"We are now ready to test HAMLET as a therapeutic and preventive agent in colon cancer, especially in families with the genetic predisposition, where preventive options are limited," Prof Svanborg said.

"After completing the various clinical trials, we hope to develop a commercially available product for doctors' use for cancer treatment in the next five to ten years," she added.

The two lead scientists added that they are also looking to trial HAMLET in Singapore and are in talks with local institutions and industry.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Substance in breast milk kills cancer cells

Apr 19, 2010

A substance found in breast milk can kill cancer cells, reveal studies carried out by researchers at Lund University and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Possible new cancer treatment identified

Apr 19, 2012

New research findings show how it may be possible to render cancer tumours harmless without affecting the other cells and tissues in the body. The findings apply to cancers including breast, lung and bowel cancer. The study ...

Virus-like particles provide vital clues about brain tumors

Apr 17, 2013

Exosomes are small, virus-like particles that can transport genetic material and signal substances between cells. Researchers at Lund University, Sweden, have made new findings about exosomes released from aggressive brain ...

Recommended for you

Unraveling the 'black ribbon' around lung cancer

Apr 17, 2014

It's not uncommon these days to find a colored ribbon representing a disease. A pink ribbon is well known to signify breast cancer. But what color ribbon does one think of with lung cancer?

User comments