Cancer cells can be destroyed by blocking single protein
29 July 2013
Research at Southampton University has discovered a protein that has no function in normal cells but is important to the survival of cancerous cells. A treatment that blocks this protein could represent a significant breakthrough in the future of cancer treatment.
Traditional chemotherapy and radiotherapy cause damage to healthy cells, and other more targeted treatments are usually only effective for individual types of cancer. Contrastingly, this new development does not damage healthy cells and could also be used to treat a wide variety of different cancers.
Chris Proud, Professor of Cellular Regulation in Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton said, "Cancer cells grow and divide much more rapidly than normal cells, meaning they have a much higher demand for and are often starved of, nutrients and oxygen. We have discovered that a cellular component, eEF2K, plays a critical role in allowing cancer cells to survive nutrient starvation, whilst normal, healthy cells do not usually require eEF2K in order to survive. Therefore, by blocking the function of eEF2K, we should be able to kill cancer cells, without harming normal, healthy cells in the process."
Professor Proud and the team are now working with other labs, including pharmaceutical companies, to develop and test drugs that block eEF2K, which could potentially be used to treat cancer in the future. The research has been published in the journal Cell.