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: Human ancestors could hold the key to early diagnosis of bone disease

Related Stories

Desert plant could bolster world's supply of natural rubber

24 minutes ago

Tropical plantations in Southeast Asia have supplied most of the essential, natural rubber for truck, car and airplane tires for the past century. Now the tire industry and others say they're finally overcoming long-standing ...

Decoding the cell's genetic filing system

26 minutes ago

A fully extended strand of human DNA measures about five feet in length. Yet it occupies a space just one-tenth of a cell by wrapping itself around histones—spool-like proteins—to form a dense hub of ...

Recommended for you

Why be creative on social media?

1 hour ago

There are five motivators for creating novel content online, whether blog posts, shared news stories, images, photos, songs, videos or any of the other digital artifacts users of social media and social networking sites share ...

Inoculating against science denial

2 hours ago

Science denial has real, societal consequences. Denial of the link between HIV and AIDS led to more than 330,000 premature deaths in South Africa. Denial of the link between smoking and cancer has caused ...

Report details benefits of investment in basic research

3 hours ago

Last year was a notable one for scientific achievements: In 2014, European researchers discovered a fundamental new particle that sheds light on the origins of the universe, and the European Space Agency ...

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.