Scientists Find Way To Block Cancer Causing Protein


A new compound that thwarts a cancer-causing protein at the cellular level has been developed, and reported in Nature Chemical Biology.

The creation of this compound began a decade ago when Dr. Bhuvanesh Singh, at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, realized high levels of the protein DCN1 led to increased malignant lung cancers and reduced life spans for his patients.

Though DCN1 is a normally occurring protein, Singh and colleagues noticed that too much of it led directly to the formation of malignant tumors. So, patients with more DCN1 fell ill and died quickly.

Other researchers discovered how DCN1 interfaces with certain proteins, and influences cellular processes. They established that a small alteration in UBE2M, a partner protein to DCN1, was necessary for DCN1 to work.

The interaction between DCN1 and UBE2M is a “lock and key model.” The blank key is UBE2M, while DCN1 is the lock. The key, wanting to get into the lock, alters until it fits. Scientists found that by jamming the lock with a series of small molecules made in the lab, the UBE2M protein could not key into and activate DCN1.

“We are excited about the implications of this research, which offer us a meaningful solution for addressing diseases like cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, and infection,” said Brenda Schulman, at St. Jude.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is improving health outcomes for our patients,” says Singh. “This work represents a very important step towards developing a new approach to treat the most difficult of cancers and hopefully increase cure rates.”

The discovery was a collaborative effort between scientists from University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Source: UK Now / University of Kentucky
Photo credit: US Army Africa


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