Backman and his colleagues set out to combat cancer’s drug resistant properties, focusing on chromatin as the key to accomplish this. The team was also using an imaging technique, which has been helping them discover more about chromatin.
Medical News Today writes:
“The new technique is called Partial Wave Spectroscopic (PWS) microscopy, and it enables real-time monitoring of chromatin in living cells.
Additionally, the researchers explain that PWS allows them to assess chromatin at a length scale of 20–200 nanometers, which they say is the precise point at which cancer formation influences chromatin.
They used PWS to monitor chromatin in cultured cancer cells. They found that chromatin has a specific “packing density” associated with gene expression that helps cancer cells to evade treatments.
The analysis revealed that a more heterogeneous and disordered chromatin packing density was related to greater cancer cell survival in response to chemotherapy. A more conservative and ordered packing density, however, was linked to greater cancer cell death in response to chemotherapy.”
“Just by looking at the cell’s chromatin structure, we could predict whether or not it would survive,” says Backman. “Cells with normal chromatin structures die because they can’t respond; they can’t explore their genome in search of resistance. They can’t develop resistance.”
The researchers later found they can alter electrolytes in the cancer cells’ nucleus in order to change chromatin’s structure.
To test this theory, the researchers began administering a combination of Celecoxib (typically useful for pain relief) and Digoxin (known to treat heart failure and atrial fibrillation), along with chemotherapy, on cancer cells in a lab. Both of these drugs have the ability to alter the packing destiny of chromatin.
Vadim Backman says:
“Within 2 or 3 days [of testing], nearly every single cancer cell died because they could not respond. The CPT compounds don’t kill the cells; they restructure the chromatin. If you block the cells’ ability to evolve and to adapt, that’s their Achilles’ heel.”
Backman’s results are incredibly promising. However, the researcher recognizes that he will also need to test this process on both animals and humans.
Medical News Today states:
“There is a big difference between cell cultures and humans,” says Backman. “You never know how the environment inside the human body will affect cancer’s behavior or if there will be unforeseen side effects.”
That said, the researchers note that they have replicated their findings in seven different cancer types so far, which Backman says is “very promising.”