Salt injections: not a cure for cancer

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“Salt injection ‘kills cancer cells’ by causing them to self-destruct,” reports the Mail Online.

Despite this headline, there is no new treatment for cancer using salt. The Mail Online reports on an early phase of experiments in laboratories that have worked out how increasing the amount of sodium chloride (salt) within a cell causes it to die.

The researchers did not inject cancer with salt, although they did create a way of getting salt inside cells (but not with a needle and syringe, as you may imagine from the headlines). In fact, they made two new molecules that bind to chloride and take it into cells. This increase in chloride also causes sodium to move into the cell, leading to an increase in sodium chloride.

Scientists already knew that increasing the level of salt within a cell would cause the cell to die, but wanted to know why.

The researchers found that increasing the salt level within normal and cancer cells in the laboratory caused cell death through one of the natural mechanisms, called the “caspase-dependent pathway”. This is a different pathway for cell death than the ones currently triggered by cancer drugs. The researchers hope this knowledge can be used to develop new drugs to treat cancer.

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