Newly Discovered Pathway Might Help in Design of Cancer Drugs

Mar 15, 2005

Johns Hopkins chemists have discovered a new way to sabotage DNA's ability to reproduce, a finding that could eventually lead to the development of new anti-cancer drugs and therapies.
The method could enable future doctors to target treatment more precisely, rather than directing chemotherapeutic medication or radiation to tumors through a scattershot approach, said Marc Greenberg (pictured at right), a chemistry professor in the university's Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, who presented his team's findings today at the 229th American Chemical Society Meeting in San Diego.

"What we did was to identify a way to create a very damaged form of DNA that is often more deadly to the cell than other types of damage," said Greenberg. "That's how many anti-tumor medications — medications such as mitomycin c — work: They kill off tumors by linking up with the cancer cells' DNA and sticking its genetic code together so it dies. Our discovery takes that a step further, establishing that there is a way to efficiently create this type of damage by modifying the DNA itself ."

In the lab, Greenberg and his team used organic chemistry to create a synthetic, double-stranded DNA with special chemical characteristics and exposed it to long wavelength light that selectively switches on the DNA damage process.

He said that the synthetic DNA is very similar to that which is produced when cells are exposed to radiation, with one exception: Greenberg's team's DNA was damaged at only one place on its chain, allowing the researchers to study it and learn about that particular chemical pathway in detail.

"Exposing DNA to radiation is like hitting a fine piece of crystal stemware with a hammer. It shatters, and looking for a particular chemical pathway is like looking for a needle in a haystack," the chemist explained. "What we did was more like carrying out a precision attack. It let us get a closer look."

Source: Johns Hopkins University

Explore further: Pop music heritage contributes to the formation of identity

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Our wine owes a debt to ancient viruses

Nov 11, 2014

Next time you pour a glass of wine, raise a toast to the 30-milion-year-old viruses that have contributed to the genetic make-up of modern grapes.

Space: The final frontier in silicon chemistry

Nov 11, 2014

Silicon, which is one of the most common elements in the Earth's crust, is also sprinkled abundantly throughout interstellar space. The only way to identify silicon-containing molecules in the far corners ...

Right place, right time: Cellular transportation compartments

Oct 26, 2014

Proteins are the machinery that accomplishes almost every task in every cell in every living organism. The instructions for how to build each protein are written into a cell's DNA. But once the proteins are constructed, they ...

Recommended for you

Pop music heritage contributes to the formation of identity

12 hours ago

The musical rebels of the past are today's museum pieces. Pop music is increasingly penetrating heritage institutions such as museums and archives. That is apparent from the PhD research of Arno van der Hoeven. On Thursday ...

Helping older employees stay in their jobs

12 hours ago

Factors that can hinder older employees from continuing to work include workload, a poor memory and the pensionable age-effect. The Job-Exposure Matrix is a newly developed instrument that provides an easy way to chart the ...

Explainer: What is a small private online course?

13 hours ago

If you have studied an online course at a university over the past couple of decades, you've probably already experienced a SPOC, or Small Private Online Course. SPOC is a new term for an old concept, which appears to be frustrating members of the distance edu ...

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.