Whenever you read news about researchers killing cancer cells, you must first remind yourself of an XKCD comic before getting too excited. In the case of a recent Scripps study, it may be possible to target and kill only cancerous cells in lymphoma patients.

More than 20,000 people die of lymphoma every year in the United States. Lymphoma is a category of cancers that originate in immune system cells called lymphocytes that battle infection. Some current lymphoma therapies are indiscriminately aimed and largely wiped out of B cells. A more precise approach, with natural killer cells, immune cells, which patrol the blood stream and tissue, has been created.

These warriors in the immune system can recognize some tell-tale surface molecules that cause serious damage or malignancy to a cell. To tackle this disease, scientists altered NK-92MI cells to minimize lymphoma cancer without harming healthy cells. These NK-92MI cells are spread throughout the body when infused in the bloodstream.

The cells can recognize some tell-tale surface molecules that cause serious damage or malignancy to a cell and can then destroy this objective cell by a range of means, including by secreting proteins which punch holes in the outer membrane of the cells. The scientists re-engineered NK-92MI cells with the goal of including a surface molecule that binds to a B-cell surface receptor. The alteration in cell cultivation experiments has greatly increased the capacity of NK cells to destroy lymphoma.

A new molecule named Sialyl-Lewis X was then  introduced to the NK cells by the development of the cells in the bone marrow between the lymphoma cells. With this treatment, the development of lymphoma in the mice has been significantly delayed.

Human colon cancer cells with the cell nuclei stained red and the protein E-cadherin stained green. E-cadherin is a cell adhesion molecule and its loss signals a process known as the epithelial-mesenchymal transition in which cells acquire the ability to migrate and become invasive.
Photo by National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

The resulting Herceptin-NK-92 MI conjugates had a remarkably improved ability to activate the lysis of the ex vitro and human tumor xenograft HER2-positve cells of cancer. This technology offers a nice complementary or synergistic approach to the permanent approach to genetic engineering, which was very effective in the building of CAR-NK NK-92MI cells.