A “trick” used by the malaria parasite when it infects a pregnant woman has given scientists new ideas for treating cancer. Malaria-infected red blood cells use a protein “hook” to latch on to a type of sugar molecule found on the surface of placental cells. Mads Daugaard, PhD, Paul Sorensen, MD, PhD, and colleagues, have discovered that the placental sugar is also on the surface of many cancer cells, but not on normal healthy cells. By fusing the malarial protein “hook” to toxic agents, the researchers were able to target the toxic agent to the cancer cells without harming healthy cells that do not have the sugar, thus stopping tumors in laboratory mice. The researchers now hope to develop this new type of anti-cancer therapy further for use in cancer patients. Drs. Daugaard and Sorenson, young investigator and principal, respectively, and co-corresponding authors, are members of the
SU2C- St. Baldrick’s Foundation Dream Team on Immunogenics to Create New Therapies for High Risk Childhood Cancers.