Scientists Discovered the Protein That Lets Cancer Spread — Maybe Now We Can Edit It Out

Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

Cancer is like a bully in the playground of your body: It grows and becomes aggressive until it's able to knock down other organs, weakening and wrecking your insides. 

Source: Giphy

According to a study from the University of Bergen and the Rockefeller University, that aggressive tendency may be traced to the protein PITPNC1, which usually handles how your cells signal each other and how you process lipids like vitamins and fats.

"We discovered that the aggressive cancer cells that are spreading in colon, breast and skin cancer contained a much higher portion of the protein PITPNC1 than the nonaggressive cancer cells," Nils Halberg, a member of the research team from the University of Bergen, said in a statement. The protein is what helps cancer cells cut into your blood cells to get from one part of your body to another, Halberg said.

Basically, if your blood is the subway, PITPNC1 is what pays for cancer's train fare.

Source: Giphy

Right now, oncologists only know cancer is spreading quickly because they see it beating the crap out of your insides. Knowing which protein is responsible for spread and growth means being able to see when, and how aggressively, that cancer will become a problem. And being able to do that means attacking cancer before it can grow and get out of hand.

This could be the start of creating custom therapies for cancer treatment, Halberg said. By targeting the protein and disabling its spreading function, custom therapies could stop cancer from running amuck in your body. It would just sit still, making it easy pickings for cancer meds to do their work.

Considering all the custom, oncological gene therapies being discussed right now, it's nice to know knocking out cancer's bully gene could come sooner than we thought.

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Max Plenke

Max Plenke is a staff writer at Mic, where he covers breaking news, climate science, health and the future. His work has appeared in Esquire, GQ and Wallpaper. Send story tips to max@mic.com.

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