Medical researchers find protein that marks difference between cancer and non-cancer cells
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IMAGE: UAlberta biochemistry professor Michael Overduin is part of a research team that discovered a modified protein that is overused by cancerous cells to effectively prevent healthy ones from sorting material… view more 

Credit: Ross Neitz

A discovery sheds light on how cancerous cells differ from healthy ones, and could lead to the development of new strategies for therapeutic intervention for difficult-to-treat cancers in the future.

An international team of investigators found a “stop sign”–a modified protein researchers named a PIP-stop–inside cells that are overused by cancerous cells that effectively prevents healthy ones from sorting material in the way they were designed to.

“We have discovered that breast cancer, leukemia, lymphoma and neuroblastoma cells have too many PIP-stops. This would upset protein function, and opens up a new avenue for developing drugs that block PIP-stop formation by kinase enzymes,” said Michael Overduin, a University of Alberta cancer researcher and professor of biochemistry, who led the research project.

The team named the modification a PIP-stop because it stops proteins from interacting with lipid molecules called PIP.

Before making their discovery, the researchers first solved the 3-D structure of a sorting nexin protein, which is key to sorting proteins to their

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