Cell-Killing Protein Offers Hope for Defeating Cancer, Diabetes

A team of Australian scientists published their findings on the workings of a protein that kills cells in Monday’s issue of the journal Nature. Their work raises hope of developing drugs that can zero in on cells that cause cancer and other immune system disorders.

The protein perforin has been revealed to be the body’s defense against rogue cells that have become cancerous or hijacked by viruses by punching holes into the cells to allow toxic enzymes to invade and destroy them. This work is deemed a major advance in the field of immunology. By uncovering the precise mechanism of perforin, researchers will be able to focus their efforts on more effective and targeted ways to defeat diseases like cancer and malaria, and even disorders like diabetes.

The findings are the fruits of 10 years of collaboration between a team headed by Professor James Whisstock, an Australian Research Council Federation fellow at Monash University, a second Australian team at the Peter McCallum Cancer Institute in Melbourne, and scientists at Birkbeck College in London of Britain.