Animal diseases could offer clues to cancer in humans


Canadian researchers say an unexpected connection between an animal disease and human cancers could lead to effective cancer therapies.

Scientists have found links between infectious prion proteins present in certain animal diseases, such as chronic wasting disease and "mad cow" disease, and certain human cancers, such as melanoma and lymphoma, a PrioNet Canada release said Monday.

Research led by Dr. Neil Cashman of PrioNet found prion proteins underwent a physical change called "misfolding" when prion disease develops, which leaves them open to possible treatment with vaccine antibodies.

Further research found similar misfolding also took place on the surface of certain human cancer cells, making the misfolded protein a promising avenue for targeting certain kinds of cancer.

"If you can target a cancer cell with a specific antibody, then you have a chance of killing the cancer and sparing the normal cells," Cashman said.

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