Researchers in Taiwan report for the first time that blocking a key energy-supplying protein kills cancer cells. The finding, described as the first to test possible medical uses of so-called ATP-synthase inhibitors, may lead to new and more effective anti-cancer medications, according to their report, which is scheduled for the April 4 issue of ACS’ monthly Journal of Proteome Research.
In the new study, Hsueh-Fen Juan and colleagues focused on ATP synthase, a key protein involved in producing the energy-rich molecules of ATP that power all life processes.
For years researchers thought that the protein existed only in mitochondria, structures located inside cells that convert nutrients into energy. Recent studies found high levels of ATP synthase on the surface of cancer cells, but until now the medical implications went unexplored.
The researchers analyzed tissue samples from breast cancer patients and found for the first time that the surface of breast cancer cells contains high levels of ATP synthase. In cell studies, exposing breast cancer cells to a substance that blocks ATP synthase killed the cancer cells but did not harm normal cells, the researchers say. The findings suggest that ATP synthase inhibitors may represent a new approach for fighting breast cancer and other cancer types, they say.
Explore further: Swinging on 'monkey bars': Motor proteins caught in the act