Typically when someone gets Cancer, it is not the initial tumor that kills them. At some point, the tumor spreads to other parts of the body, such as the brain, the liver, or other parts to the point where it becomes untreatable. What if a therapy could be developed that could slow or even stop this process? A post-doctorate fellow at Johns Hopkins may well have discovered such a therapy, according to the Baltimore Sun.

How does cancer spread?

When Hasini Jayatilaka was an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins, she noticed that cancer cells started to break off and spread through the body when tumors became too dense.

At the time, she could not find out why by searching the academic literature. Seven years later Jayatilaka, now a post-doc, and a team of researchers discovered the biochemical mechanism.

It seems that when the tumor reaches a certain density, it starts to emit a couple of proteins called Interleukin 6 and Interleukin 8 that signal the cancer cells that it is time to break off and start spreading to other parts of the body. The discovery is considered a breakthrough because the processes of tumor growth and cancer spread were thought to be separate and unrelated.

Stopping cancer metastasis

The researchers found that two pre-existing drugs, Tocilizumab, which is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, and Reparixin, which is being evaluated as a cancer drug, blocked the proteins and slowed, but did not stop, the spread of cancer in rodent studies.

Jayatilaka believes that adding a third drug or tweaking the dosage may stop metastasis. The side effects seem to be minimal. However, Human Trials are needed to prove the effectiveness of the drug cocktail. The fact that the drugs already exist means that approval for combating the spread of cancer could happen far quicker than if a new drug had been developed.

Using drug cocktails to cure cancer

If the drug cocktail works in halting the spread of cancer in humans, cancer therapy will become a multi-front effort. Chemotherapy will still be used to shrink tumors while the cocktail being developed at Johns Hopkins will make certain that the cancer doesn’t spread. Immune therapy, which enlists the body’s immune system to combat cancer, will also come into play,

90 percent of people who die from cancer do so after it spreads throughout the body.

If a way is found to slow or halt that spread, far more people will survive the disease that has hitherto been the case. Another way will have been found to ensure that cancer is not a death sentence.