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Called Caspase-Independent Cell Death (CICD), it was able to completely eradicate tumours in colorectal cancer cells grown in the lab.
Conventional anti-cancer treatments work by apoptosis, a kind of programmed cell death where cells effectively get ordered to kill themselves off, via proteins called caspases.
It's how chemotherapy works, for example, and it can work well – but there are caveats.
These therapies can miss some of their targets, which means cancer cells don't get eliminated and the tumours have a better chance of coming back, and can also be damaging to healthy cells, as anyone who's been through chemotherapy will tell you.
Enter CICD, which takes on some of the mechanisms of apoptosis but takes caspases out of the equation. When cells are killed off with CICD, the researchers found, they send a signal to the immune system that can then attack any remaining cancer cells.
It's a cleaner and hopefully safer way of taking a tumour out of a body – though it's worth emphasising that the treatment has only been tested on lab models so far. "This new research suggests there could be a better way to kill cancer cells which, as an added bonus, also activates the immune system,"