German researchers have designed a drug capable of “crushing” the proteins involved in cancer. When tested on cancer cells grown in the lab, it killed the tumors, suggesting a new way to treat the disease.
A promising approach
When present in larger amounts than usual, certain proteins are associated with an increased risk of cancer. This is particularly true for the protein kinase Aurora-A (or more simply Aurora), overexpressed in certain breast and prostate cancers, as well as leukemia and neuroblastoma, against which a chemical produced by willows had previously shown promise.
The inhibition of these proteins ” tumorigenic Is one of the cancer treatment options that scientists are currently exploring. However, this type of experimental drug currently offers generally mixed results by simply deactivating proteins temporarily without destroying them, which helps fight the tumor but does not entirely stop their functions.
However, things could be set to change soon in this area thanks to the promising work carried out by researchers from the universities of Würzburg and of Frankfurt.
” Aurora-A kinase is found in much higher concentrations in many cancerous tissues than in healthy tissue and it also plays a key role in prostate cancer “, Explain Stefan Knapp, co-author of this research published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology. ” Blocking Aurora-A kinase activity does not appear to be a promising approach on its own, as none of the many clinically tested drug candidates have achieved clinical approval.. “
“The tumor needs certain promoter proteins to last”
As part of this new study, German scientists have developed a class of investigational drugs known as PROTAC, capable of completely degrading certain proteins. And it turned out that one of them was particularly effective against kinase Aurora-A.
” The tumor needs certain promoter proteins to last, which could be compared to the pages of a book “, Explain Elmar Wolf, one of the authors of the study. ” Our substance PROTAC tears off the pages of the Aurora protein and destroys them using the machinery each cell has to break down old and altered proteins. “
In tests on cancer cell lines grown in the laboratory, PROTAC actively participated in the breakdown of proteins Aurora present in tumors, resulting in the death of associated cells.
Although these initial results are particularly promising, the team says the research is still in its early stages. For scientists, the next steps will be to test the efficacy and safety of the treatment in animals, before considering clinical trials.