Among the tools in an oncologist’s bag for defeating cancer is chemotherapy. The chemicals used are meant to destroy cancer cells, but sometimes will miss their target and kill healthy cells too. Numerous researchers are looking for ways to better target the drugs, sometimes with the help of nanotechnology, but some at Johns Hopkins University have a different plan. Instead of trying to deliver the cell killing chemical outside of the cancer cell, why not deliver it inside the cancer cell? Combining a nontoxic drug with a protein switch, the chemical could be absorbed by both healthy and cancerous cells without harming them. If the protein switch is activated though, the remainder of the chemical becomes toxic and will kill the cell it is in. By having the trigger be something only present within cancer cells, this should keep the collateral damage to a minimum.
This method has been testing in human cancer cells, but not human patients. More experimentation is needed before clinical trials can begin.