The Herald (from the Daily Mail) asks “Has an 8-year-old found a cancer cure?”
According to the story,
Michael Lisanti asked his eight-year-old daughter how she would cure cancer, and it seems she may have got it right.
Camilla Lisanti suggested using antibiotics, “like when I have a sore throat”.
Her parents, a husband-wife cancer research team were sceptical at first but tested out her theory in their Manchester University lab. And to their surprise, several cheap and widely-used antibiotics killed the most dangerous cancer cells.
That’s not what they say in their research paper, where the idea is presented as coming from a large-scale objective search
These observations are also consistent with the idea that cancer is essentially a disease of “stemness” gone awry
Based on this rather simple premise, using unbiased quantitative proteomic profiling, we have focused on identifying a global phenotypic property of cancer stem cells (CSCs) that could be targeted across multiple tumor types. We have identified this property as a strict dependence on mitochondrial biogenesis, for the anchorage-independent clonal expansion and survival of the CSC population.
Here, we show that 4-to-5 different classes of FDA-approved antibiotics, which inhibit mitochondrial biogenesis as an “off-target” effect, can be used to eradicate cancer stem cells, in 12 different cancer cell lines, across 8 different tumor types
Either way, are these antibiotics (which aren’t the ones recommended for ‘when I have a sore throat’) a new idea that’s going to cure cancer?
Well, doxycycline, the apparent favourite, has been proposed before, based on at least two other theories about why it should work. A simple Google search would tell you that. A slightly more sophisticated search would tell you that this mechanism has been proposed before (in 1984)
Tetracyclines have even been tested before. A review article in 2011 says
Here we review the efforts to determine the efficacy of tetracyclines as chemotherapeutics in human cancer trials. While the majority of clinical trials have yielded disappointing results, tetracyclines have been shown to be generally well tolerated and have significant anti-proliferative effects in certain cancer types.
On the other hand, those trials were done in tumours chosen based on a different theory, and mostly used different tetracyclines. It would be wonderful if doxycycline did better in new trials, but I wouldn’t say that’s the way to bet.