The combination of two drugs, called TRAIL and a CDK9 inhibitor, forced the cancer cells to self-destruct, the findings showed.
When healthy cells are no longer useful, they initiate a chain of events culminating in self destruction.
But cancer cells swerve away from this suicide path and become immortal. This means that cells grow out of control — causing tumours to form.
Lead researcher Henning Walczak from the UCL Cancer Institute, University College, London in Britain, said: “Igniting the fuse that causes lung cancer cells to self-destruct could pave the way to a completely new treatment approach — and leave healthy cells unharmed.”
The researchers have successfully fixed this fault in lung cancer cells — reprogramming the cells to self-destruct.
The researchers used lung cancer cells and mice for the experiments.
Walczak added: “The next step of our work will see how this approach works in other cancer types, and we hope it could ultimately lead to testing this technique in trials to see if it can help patients.”
The findings will be presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference next week in Liverpool, Britain.