Molecular glue sticks it to cancer

Jun 22, 2011

University of Toronto Mississauga researchers have developed a "molecular glue" that sticks cancer-promoting proteins to a cell's membrane -- shutting off a cancer cell's growth.

Imagine dropping dish soap into a sink full of greasy water. What happens? As soon as the soap hits the water, the grease recoils—and retreats to the edges of the sink.

Now, what if the sink was a cell, the globs of grease were cancer-promoting proteins and the dish soap was a potential drug? According to new research from the University of Toronto Mississauga, such a drug could force the proteins to the cell's membrane (a.k.a., the edge of the sink)—and make the cancer cell more vulnerable to chemotherapy.

"This is a totally new approach to cancer therapy," says Professor Patrick Gunning of the Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences. "Everything prior to this has targeted functionally relevant binding sites. Our approach inhibits the mobility of cancer-promoting proteins within —essentially, it's like molecularly targeted glue."

The "glue" is shaped like a dumbbell: at one end is an anchor that sticks to the membrane, and at the other is a molecule that binds to the cancer-promoting proteins. The anchor is a cholesterol molecule that is well known to chemists for sticking to cell membranes. The recognition molecule is fairly picky about what it will bind to, reducing the risk of drug-related side effects.

Gunning says that by sticking the target proteins to the cell membrane, the glue-like substance interferes with how they cause to multiply out of control. However, on a normal cell, the new therapy should have little effect.

"We are really excited about the potential for this type of drug," says Gunning, who developed the concept along with Professor Claudiu Gradinaru at U of T Mississauga and Professor James Turkson at the University of Central Florida. "This is ready to move to preclinical studies, and this treatment could slow or stop the explosive growth of cancerous tumours. And for patients, this might reduce the need for really powerful chemotherapy, which can be very hard to tolerate."

The study appears on the cover of the latest issue of the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Explore further: Researchers develop a novel device to image the minute forces and actions involved in cell membrane hemifusion

Related Stories

Novel approach to cancer drug given major boost

Jan 15, 2007

Scientists at the ProXara Biotechnology Limited have identified a way of switching off one of the key mechanisms that leads to the development and growth of a tumour. Under the Wellcome Trust's Seeding Drug Discovery initiative, ...

Breakthrough: With a chaperone, copper breaks through

Oct 18, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Information on proteins is critical for understanding how cells function in health and disease. But while regular proteins are easy to extract and study, it is far more difficult to gather ...

Deactivating a cancer growth promoter

Sep 25, 2008

Three enzymes called phosphatases that shut down a molecule called SRC-3 (steroid receptor coactivator 3) could provide a new pathway for fighting cancer, particularly tumors of the breast and prostate, said researchers at ...

Recommended for you

Expanding the code of life with new 'letters'

9 hours ago

The DNA encoding all life on Earth is made of four building blocks called nucleotides, commonly known as "letters," that line up in pairs and twist into a double helix. Now, two groups of scientists are reporting ...

Researchers find 'decoder ring' powers in micro RNA

May 26, 2015

MicroRNA can serve as a "decoder ring" for understanding complex biological processes, a team of New York University chemists has found. Their study, which appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, points ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.