Potential cancer breakthrough thanks to the Malaria mosquito’s anti-placenta behavior

Potential cancer breakthrough thanks to the Malaria mosquito’s anti-placenta behavior



Potential cancer breakthrough thanks to the Malaria mosquito’s anti-placenta behavior

Malaria mosquitos (1) have been present in cancer research for decades, ever since it was discovered that the high fever malaria produces can trigger an inflammatory response hot enough to “melt”  malignant tumors, which are much more sensitive to heat shock proteins than normal cells. Now,  a group of Danish scientists, inspired by the Malaria mosquito’s placenta attack, (2) discovered a “trojan horse” technique, using a malaria protein combined to an anti cancer toxin that can zap  malignant tumors.

By attaching a cancer-killing toxin to the malaria “anti-placenta” protein, the researchers found that the combination was lethal for many cancers, notably in lab tests, where it was shown that up to 90 percent of cancers were destroyed.  The lethal combination was also tested successfully in mice that were implanted with different types of human cancers. (See exhibit below).

Given the expense and bureaucracy of human clinical trials, it will be at least four years before the treatment will be available for human testing and eventually for humans (except pregnant women). The  Danish researchers are hopeful that their patented technique will be a significant step forward in cancer treatment research.


(1). Malaria is bloodborne disease caused by the Plasmodium parasite which is spread by mosquito bites. According to UNICEF, this disease kills up to a million people each year. Malaria is especially dangerous for pregnant women as the parasite  attacks the placenta.

(2). Both tumors and  placentas are similar in that  within a few months grows from only few cells into an organ weighing approximately 2 pounds for the placenta and often more for the tumor. These growths produce oxygen and nourishment in a relatively foreign environment. Hence, the immune system’s adaptation, thanks to which these growths are not seen as foreign antigens to be removed.


Cancer Cell. 2015 Oct 12;28(4):500-14. doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2015.09.003.

Targeting Human Cancer by a Glycosaminoglycan Binding Malaria Protein.

Salanti A1, Clausen TM2, Agerbæk MØ3, Al Nakouzi N4, Dahlbäck M5, Oo HZ4, Lee S6, Gustavsson T5, Rich JR7, Hedberg BJ7, Mao Y8, Barington L5, Pereira MA5, LoBello J9, Endo M10, Fazli L6, Soden J11, Wang CK6, Sander AF5, Dagil R5, Thrane S5, Holst PJ5, Meng L8, Favero F12, Weiss GJ13, Nielsen MA5, Freeth J11, Nielsen TO14, Zaia J8, Tran NL9, Trent J9, Babcook JS7, Theander TG5, Sorensen PH15, Daugaard M16.

Plasmodium falciparum engineer infected erythrocytes to present the malarial protein, VAR2CSA, which binds a distinct type chondroitin sulfate (CS) exclusively expressed in the placenta. Here, we show that the same CS modification is present on a high proportion of malignant cells and that it can be specifically targeted by recombinant VAR2CSA (rVAR2). In tumors, placental-like CS chains are linked to a limited repertoire of cancer-associated proteoglycans including CD44 and CSPG4. The rVAR2 protein localizes to tumors in vivo and rVAR2 fused to diphtheria toxin or conjugated to hemiasterlin compounds strongly inhibits in vivo tumor cell growth and metastasis. Our data demonstrate how an evolutionarily refined parasite-derived protein can be exploited to target a common, but complex, malignancy-associated glycosaminoglycan modification.


(c). Advanced Cancer Research Institute and agents.

Disclaimer: This educational piece should not be construed as medical advise, in other words, we are not recommending that cancer patients get purposely bitten by the Malaria mosquito.


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