Thursday, April 19, 2012

Protein inhibition can treat many common cancers

Cancer requires an increase in cellular proteins that promote uncontrolled growth, while proteins that dampen growth levels need to disappear. Scientists have already discovered a large set of proteins that play a role in the development of tumours, and they play an important role in our efforts to create new cancer treatments. At the Lund University in Sweden, they found how the absence of a well-known protein can lead to common tumours. They also showed how this process can be blocked, revealing new treatment options for common cancers.

Retinoblastoma protein (RB) is commonly regarded as a tumour-suppressor, which means we want to keep it intact and functioning in our bodies. When RB is no longer functioning, cells can start growing uncontrollably, leading to development of tumours. At the Lund University, scientists found out that absence of RB leads to an increase in a protein called gamma-tubulin. This appears to be a key factor in RB-associated cancer development.

When gamma-tubulin is present in high levels, it can promote uncontrolled growth. For that reason, scientists tried to block the protein, which proved to be highly effective. Without gamma-tubulin, cancer cells were unable to survive while healthy cells were left unharmed. Their experiments worked for a lot of common tumours, such as breast, lung, bladder and bowel cancer.

New drugs
The scientists think their discovery may very well lead to the development of new treatments. Because drugs blocking similar molecules have already been developed, it is likely we will find one that is effective and safe for blocking gamma-tubulin in cancer patients. There is no animal data available as of yet, which means getting a drug into the clinic will still take many years. 

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