"Most anti-cancer treatments are not sufficiently specific, meaning they attack healthy cells together with the malignant ones they're trying to get rid of," explained Professor Alexander Binshtok, head of Plain Plasticity Research Group at the University.
"This leads to the many serious side-effects associated with chemotherapy. Eliminating cancerous cells while leaving healthy ones alone is an important step towards reducing patients' suffering," the professor added.
The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology.
The study focused on the selective expression of the TRPV2 protein by cancer cells. When activated, TRPV2 protein opens a canal inside cell membranes.
Researchers studied liver cancer cells and were able to successfully insert a low dose of doxorubicin, a chemotherapeutic agent, through the canal and directly into cancer cells.
Not only did the new method target cancer cells without harming healthy ones. In the future, the precision of this delivery method may allow doctors to prescribe lower chemo doses and to relieve patients from some of the harsher effects of chemo.
"It's too early to make concrete predictions but we are hopeful this discovery will lead the way towards a new, more targeted delivery method for chemotherapy treatment, one that will drastically reduce patients' pain," Binshtok concluded.