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'Wake-up' pill offers new hope on cancer

A pill that "wakes up" the immune system allowing it to kill spreading tumours could one day bring new hope to people with advanced cancer.

In tests on mice, scientists used a drug to activate natural killer (NK) cells, which are part of the immune system and the body's first line of defence.

A problem with progressing cancer is that it develops ways to "turn off" NK cells so that they no longer recognise and then kill their enemy.


As a result, cancer spreads round the body unchecked. And the spread of the disease to vital organs, or metastasis, is the chief cause of death in patients.

The new molecule, known as a TAM kinase inhibitor, effectively removes the brakes from natural killer cells so they can destroy metastatic cancer.

The blood-thinning drug warfarin, which targets the same pathway, was also shown to combat metastasis in mice.