A major advance towards targeting cancer without harming healthy tissue has been discovered by University of Bristol researchers. The team has found a way to exploit hypoxia (reduced oxygen levels) — a condition which occurs during the development of many common cancers and drives their progression and spread. The findings, which have implications for targeted oncology, are published today [24 August 2018] in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine.
Hypoxia arises because tumours often grow faster than their blood supply, causing oxygen deprivation, which forces cancer cells to adapt — this makes their behaviour more aggressive and in turn leads to their spread around the body. The team sought to understand how cancer cells adapt to hypoxic conditions, with the hope of finding new ways to stop cancers growing and spreading. Using human cancer cells grown in dishes and a technique called proteomics, the team examined all the proteins that are ‘switched on’ by cancer cells in hypoxia. These experiments enabled the team to identify a new signalling mechanism that in the future could be therapeutically targeted to kill cancer cells without harming the surrounding normal cells.
Dr Alexander Greenhough, who led the Cancer Research UK-funded study from Bristol’s School
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