Weak spot to kill cancer cells identified

5 December 2011

Cancer treatment researchers have found a weak spot in cells which could mean that they can "bag up and bin" a toxic protein.

A study published in Nature Cell Biology could mean a new target for treatment development towards a point of lesser strength and resistance on the cancer cell.

Scientists at the Edinburgh Cancer Research UK Centre at the University of Edinburgh found that a protein called FAK is produced in much higher doses in cancer cells compared to the rest of the body. This, in partner with the SRC protein, could cause tumours to spread and grow.

The researchers suggested that if treatment removes the FAK protein, this should trigger cell death.

Report author professor Margaret Frame, Cancer Research UK scientist at the Edinburgh Cancer Research UK Centre, said: "We've shown that cancer cells can adapt to the problems caused by stress, by hijacking normal cell waste disposal to 'bag up and bin' toxic proteins."

She added that this discovery could help researchers target specific cells for cancer treatment developments.

Researchers at the the Institute for Research in Biomedicine Barcelona and Pilar Navarro identified the protein CPEB4 as a conductor that activates hundreds of genes associated with tumour growth.

Posted by Jeanette Royston

Ortiz-Zapater, Elena, et al., "Key contribution of CPEB4-mediated translational control to cancer progression.", Nature Medicine, December 2011.

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