Cancer protein 'can be disarmed'

Scientists have found a way to disarm a protein thought to play a key role in leukaemia and other cancers.
The breakthrough raises hopes of a new type of therapy that could treat cancer and other diseases.
Previous attempts to neutralise the protein had failed, leading experts to conclude it was effectively “undruggable”.
The study, carried out by the US Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, features in the journal Nature.
The protein is one of the body’s transcription factors, which turn genes on or off and set in motion genetic cascades that control how cells grow and develop. They also help fuel the growth of tumours.
The transcription factor targeted in the latest study is a protein called Notch.
The gene responsible for manufacturing the protein is often damaged or mutated in patients with a form of blood cancer known as T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).

Researcher Professor Greg Verdine said: “Stapled peptides promise to significantly expand the range of what’s considered ‘druggable’.
“With our discovery, we’ve declared open season on transcription factors and other intractable drug targets.”
Dr David Ish-Horowicz, head of developmental genetics at Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute, described the research as “very interesting”.
He said: “There is already considerable work by scientists into ways to block Notch to try and reverse the effects of ALL, but the current drugs have some serious side-effects.
“This study describes the design of a new chemical that blocks the mechanism in a different way.
“The new chemical has only been tested in mice so far, and so we don’t know how it will behave in humans.
“But, long term, it may lead to alternative drugs and better treatments for this kind of leukaemia and maybe other cancers.”

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