GSK-backed sci­en­tif­ic team at UCSF says they found the im­mor­tal­i­ty switch in can­cer cells — and know how to turn it off

Can­cer cells cheat death in a num­ber of ways, di­vid­ing and mul­ti­ply­ing in­fi­nite­ly in a pa­tient’s body. But by tin­ker­ing with glioblas­toma cells a pre­clin­i­cal proof-of-con­cept study, re­searchers from UC San Fran­cis­co re­port that they have found a way to dis­rupt one of those “im­mor­tal­i­ty switch­es.”

It’s a first glimpse at the sci­ence be­hind Telo Ther­a­peu­tics, a Glax­o­SmithK­line-part­nered biotech up­start found­ed by UCSF neu­ro-on­col­o­gy pro­fes­sor Joseph Costel­lo and one of his for­mer PhD stu­dents, Robert Bell. Costel­lo is the se­nior au­thor of the study while Bell is list­ed as a co-au­thor.

Their break­through here be­gins with telom­ere, the cell lifes­pan-con­trol­ling chro­mo­some cap that’s in­spired con­sid­er­able in­ter­est in both an­ti-ag­ing (to pro­long a func­tion­al cell’s life) and can­cer (to has­ten a tu­mor cell’s death).

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