One of the latest methods pioneered by scientists to treat cancer uses a Trojan horse sneak attack to prompt cancer cells to self-destruct – all without using any drugs.
Key to the technique is the use of a nanoparticle coated in a specific amino acid called L-phenylalanine, one of several such acids that cancer cells rely on to grow. L-phenylalanine isn’t made by the body, but absorbed from meat and dairy products.
In tests on mice, the nanoparticle – called Nano-pPAAM or Nanoscopic phenylalanine Porous Amino Acid Mimic – killed cancer cells specifically and effectively, posing as a friendly amino acid before causing the cells to destroy themselves.
The self-destruction mode is triggered as the nanoparticle puts production of certain chemicals known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) into overdrive. It’s enough to bring down the cancer cells while leaving neighbouring, healthy cells intact.