New approach attacks 'undruggable' cancers from the outside in
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Cancer researchers have made great strides in developing targeted therapies that treat the specific genetic mutations underlying a patient’s cancer. However, many of the most common cancer-causing genes are so central to cellular function throughout the body that they are essentially ‘undruggable’. Now, researchers at UC San Francisco have found a way to attack one of the most common drivers of lung, colorectal, and pancreatic cancer by targeting the proteins it produces on the outside of the cell.

Their study, published January 23, 2018 in the journal eLife, reveals that cancer-causing mutations in RAS, a family of genes found in all animal cell types, creates tell-tale changes in a community of proteins on the surface of cancer cells. The researchers show that attacking these cells from the outside in – by targeting the altered proteins with antibodies – could be a viable therapeutic approach for previously undruggable cancer targets.

RAS serves as a major communication hub that relays information from outside the cell to as many as 12 different signaling pathways inside the cell, including the MAPK and PI3K pathways, which then collectively induce changes to our cells. Nearly one third of all human malignancies are caused by one

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