Scientists find way to arrest cancer

According to researchers at US Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, while examining the structure a protein called Notch, which fuels the growth of tumours, they isolated a potential weak spot in its structure.

“By employing a state-of-the-art technique using chemical braces to mould protein snippets called peptides into specific three dimensional shapes, we identified one that was able to disrupt Notch’s function and when tested on mice it was found to limit the growth of cancer cells,” said lead author Greg Verdine.

The gene responsible for manufacturing Notch is often damaged or mutated in patients with a form of blood cancer known as T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the study said. “As a result the gene is switched on all the time, driving the uncontrolled cell growth characteristic of cancer,” Verdine said, adding “similar abnormalities in Notch also underlie other cancers, like lung and ovarian tumours”.

Previous attempts to neutralise the protein had failed, leading experts to conclude it was effectively “undruggable.”

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