Researchers have found that a cancer treatment used to treat a bone marrow cancer called myeloma actually works by boosting the action of a cancer-promoting gene.
The startling find was made by experts at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Centre, who were conducting tests using the drug bortezomib (velcade).
They suggest that the concept of pushing cancer cells into overdrive so that they self-destruct could provide a new cancer treatment strategy for other forms of the disease.
"Our data suggest a different approach to treat cancer," said senior study author and dermatology professor Dr Maria Soengas.
The expert said that increasing the function of cancer genes so that the cell cycle is disrupted and they promote cell death could provide an alternative treatment for the disease.
Just over 3,700 people were diagnosed with myeloma in the UK in 2003, representing approximately three in every 200 cases of cancer.