Research breakthrough on specific form of cell death may overcome chemoresistance

Published 1:01 pm Wednesday, November 4, 2020

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Dr. Ilana Chefetz, head of the Cancer Stem Cells & Necroptosis lab at The Hormel Institute, published a review article focusing on a specific type of cell death called “necroptosis” and its possible role in eliminating tumors that are resistant to chemotherapy.

“Exploiting necroptotic pathways for cell death induction can also give the key to targeting specific subpopulations of malignant cells poorly affected by conventional chemotherapeutic treatments, such as cancer stem cells,” Chefetz said.

Dr. Ilana Chefetz

In the normal life cycle of a cell, cell death occurs through a process called apoptosis. Many anti-tumor cancer treatments try to force that same process to kill malignant cells. Unfortunately, that does not always work and chemoresistance and apoptosis evasion remain a paramount challenge in cancer treatment.

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One of the most promising directions in necroptosis studies is the implication of necroptotic cell death for cancer treatment. By activating necroptotic signaling in cancer cells, necroptosis, rather than apoptosis, can be used to overcome the resistance to some cancer drugs and drastically improve the effectiveness of tumor eradication therapies.

After completing this research, Chefetz and her lab have identified a search for novel approaches capable of precise and thoroughly controlled induction of necroptosis in malignant cells as a first-priority objective for future studies in the field of necroptotic cell death.

The paper, “A decade of cell death studies: Breathing new life into necroptosis,” was published in the high impact journal Pharmacology and Therapeutics. It is a joint effort with Drs. Imran Khan, a current postdoctoral fellow at The Hormel Institute, and Abdelrahman Yousif, a past visiting scholar at The Hormel Institute and current OBGYN resident at Michigan State, who is still involved in work with Dr. Chefetz’s lab.