Researchers at Dartmouth University’s Geisel School of Medicine say a protein carried by a parasite that infests cats seems to make cancer tumours shrink.
The Toxoplasma gondii parasite is ubiquitous, as felines, including domestic cats, are its sole known host. The protozoan is highly dangerous, and can cause a row of diseases, including toxoplasmosis, rage disorder and schizophrenia. However, recent scientific findings, published in the PLOS Genetics journal state that T. gondii could be effective in cancer treatment.
A team at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, United States, developed a vaccine made from the tiny parasite which increased the survival of mice with ovarian tumours. The findings, in PLOS Genetics, show the cat poo parasite somehow stops tumours becoming unresponsive to immune system attacks. This is a problem with existing immunotherapy cancer treatments, which charge up the immune system to go on the attack.
The use of parasite’s proteins could “reveal fundamental mechanisms controlling immunity to infection and can also identify relevant mammalian cell mechanisms as new targets for devising more effective therapies against highly aggressive solid tumours,” David Bzik, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology explained to Daily Mail.
In the nearest future scientists hope to test the treatment in humans.
At the moment the researchers are busy with testing whether the parasite could be used with bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes, to turn the immune system from tolerance toward pancreatic tumours to resistance.