The treatment blocks a protein called CD47.
Cancer cells produce more CD47 than healthy tissue that tricks the body’s immune system into ignoring the bad cells.
Scientists were able to build an antibody that blocked CD47, allowing the body’s natural defense system to attack and kill the bad cells.
Initial results have been remarkable.
Doctors implanted human tumors in mice and then used the new breakthrough.
In each case, the treatment allowed the mice’s own defense system to kill breast, ovary, colon, bladder, brain, liver and prostate tumors.
Stanford University biologist Irving Weissman began working with CD47 to fight leukemia but quickly discovered it had far more potential.
“What we've shown is that CD47 isn't just important on leukemia and lymphomas," Weissman told Science.
"It's on every single human primary tumor that we tested."
Weissman was most excited about the potential to help patients who may have more advanced forms of the disease.
"We showed that even after the tumor has taken hold, the antibody can either cure the tumor or slow its growth and prevent metastasis," he noted.
Weissman and his fellow researchers will get a chance to continue and deepen their work thanks to a $20 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
The next step is to begin testing in humans.
"We have enough data already that I can say I'm confident that this will move to phase I human trials," Weissman concluded.