The exchange of a single amino acid building block in a metabolic enzyme can lead to cancer. In addition, it can impair the immune system, scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), the University Hospitals in Mannheim and Heidelberg, and the German Cancer Consortium now report. It thus blocks the body’s immune response in the battle against the mutant molecule and also impedes immunotherapy against brain cancer. This finding opens new insights into cancer development and progression and it also suggests that rethinking antitumor immunotherapy is required.
Alterations in the genetic material are often the first step in carcinogenesis. In many cases, an exchange of a single amino acid building block is all it takes. A prime example for this is the mutant form of a metabolic enzyme called IDH1 (isocitrate dehydrogenase 1). This enzyme has an important task in cellular energy metabolism. However, if IDH1 has undergone an alteration at a specific site, it leads to the formation of a substance called 2 HG, which harms the body. It disturbs the metabolism and stimulates cell division, thus laying the cornerstone for cancer. The scientific term for a cancerogenic metabolic product like 2-HG is “oncometabolite”. 2-HG accounts for more than
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