New protein switch could create mini chemotherapy cells

26 September 2011

A protein "switch" that instructs cancer cells to produce their own anti-cancer medication could create mini chemotherapy cells in the body for cancer treatment, research has found.

Scientists explained that the goal of the study was to instruct cancer cells to become self-destructive.

Researchers showed that the protein switches work from inside the cells and can activate a powerful cell-killing drug when the device detects a marker linked to cancerous cells.

Co-author of the study Marc Ostermeier, a Johns Hopkins University chemical and biomolecular engineering professor in the Whiting School of Engineering, said the lab-based study showed that one key problem in fighting cancer is that broadly applied chemotherapy also harms healthy cells.

In the protein switch strategy, the cancer cells that are "marked" would be administered "prodrug", which will turn the drug into a potent form of chemotherapy.

Mr Ostermeier added: "The switch in effect turns the cancer cell into a factory for producing the anti-cancer drug inside the cancer cell."

The next stage of the research is animal testing, according to the team of researchers.

Chemotherapy acts by killing cells that divide rapidly, one of the main properties of most cancer cells.

By Jeanette Royston.

Wright, Chapman, M. et al., "A protein therapeutic modality founded on molecular recognition", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 23rd 2011.

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