Cell's 'biological clock' hold promise for new cancer therapy

5 January 2015 

A team at the University of Texas' (UT) Southwestern Medical Center have found a way to use a cell's own biological clock to kill cancer and prevent the growth of tumours. 

Biologists targeted telomeres with a small molecule called 6-thiodG, which are able to inhibit the progression of cancer cells in culture, and reduce tumour growth. 

Dr Jerry W. Shay, professor and vice chairman of cell biology at UT Southwestern, and colleague, Dr Woodring E. Wright, professor of cell biology and internal medicine, found that 6-thiodG is able to target a unique mechanism that is thought to regulate how long cells can survive.

Published in the journal Cancer Discovery, the study used this biological clock, which consists of DNA structures known as telomeres. These protect the cell's chromosomes from damage and become shorter whenever the cell divides. Once the telomeres cannot be shortened any further, the cell dies.

However, cancer cells are protected from death by an RNA protein complex - telomerase - which ensures that telomeres do not shorten with each division. 

6-thiodG is preferable to drugs as it disrupts the normal way cells maintain telomere length, which the cell reads as damage, causing it to die.

Posted by ​Jeanette Royston​

 

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