Cockles could be the holy grail of cancer treatment

Cockles could be the holy grail of cancer treatment

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Cockle sugar is effective in treating cancer

Scientists and medical professionals are constantly looking for new ways to treat cancer more effectively. British researchers have now found that cockles could be the key to fighting cancer.

In their current research, scientists from the University of Salford in Manchester found that cockles can be used to treat cancer effectively. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Marine Drugs".

Sugar from the mussels can prevent tumor cells from growing

Sugar, which can be extracted from these mussels, is able to prevent different types of tumor cells from growing, the experts say. Cockles could be useful for treating children with cancer in the future because such treatment is more tolerable and has fewer side effects. Molluscs can be cheaper and as effective as some traditional chemotherapy drugs, the authors add.

What types of cancer have been treated?

The researchers tested the unusual type of therapy for leukemia, breast, lung, and colon cancer, and then said that their results were encouraging. But eating the cockles won't cure cancer. Specific sugars must first be isolated and converted to medication before being injected into the body.

Sugar as effective as standard chemotherapy drugs?

Cockles are a type of mollusk that resemble clams and contain sugar that can be used to stop tumor cell proliferation, doctors say. The current study was carried out on cancer cells that were isolated in a laboratory. The experts claim that cockle sugars can be about as effective against cancer as some standard chemotherapy drugs and that only small doses are required.

How can sugar from mussels protect against cancer?

This new form of medicine seems to work because specific sugars that can be extracted from the mollusks are able to bind to proteins found in cancer tumors. When the sugar interacts with tumor cells, a so-called antiproliferative activity arises, the scientists explain. This means that these sugars prevent the cells from multiplying quickly. The rapid proliferation of cells usually causes tumors to grow out of control.

More research is needed

The researchers haven't been able to explain exactly how sugar fights cancer cells, but more research is being done to find out. The strong anti-cancer effects of cockle sugar have not previously been found in other types of sugar that have also been extracted from marine life. Mammalian polysaccharides (sugar) have long been part of cancer research experiments, explains study author Dr. David Pye from the University of Salford. The doctors chose shellfish instead, not least because they are much cheaper and easier to get, and they contain a lot of sugar. These have a different structure from which a number of potential medications can be derived, which if further refined have the potential to function as an alternative to conventional treatments.

Oral sugar intake is not enough

Extracting a mixture of polysaccharides from cockles is an easy procedure and the impact of injection into tumors is very encouraging, says Dr. Pye. Other unpublished research has shown that the therapy can shrink tumors and slow their spread, the expert added. However, the sugars have to be injected to develop their cancer-fighting properties - oral intake is not enough.

Treatment particularly useful for children

What really matters is not so much the source of sugar, but the fact that sugars of this chemical structure work effectively to a tolerable extent for children, the study author explains. Experts estimate that between two and three out of ten children in the UK diagnosed with cancer are unlikely to survive until adulthood. Many anti-cancer drugs for children are watered down versions of drugs for adults that stop cell division. Since cell division is a key process in growth and development, these drugs have clearly had a disproportionate impact on children's health, the expert continues.

What is optimal chemotherapy for children?

Optimized chemotherapy for children is designed to maximize cancer destruction while minimizing damage to normal cells and tissues. Cockle sugar as a therapeutic treatment could help minimize the harmful side effects, the scientists hope. (as)

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