Cancer-causing protein can be altered to stop disease from spreading

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
Scientist in lab examining cancer cells through microscopeShare on Pinterest
Researchers have altered a specific protein known to cause 75% of cancers to spread, which could lead to future treatments. VICTOR TORRES/Stocksy
  • The global burden of cancer is continuing to grow, and there is currently no cure for any type of cancer.
  • Researchers predict more than 35 million new cancer cases by 2050, marking a 77% increase from 2022.
  • In a recent study, researchers found a way to change the physical properties of a specific protein that causes 75% of all human cancer cases.
  • The researchers say the discovery could pave the way for future cancer treatments.

The global burden of cancer is continuing to grow, according to the Health Organization" rationale="Highly respected international organization">World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Researchers predict more than 35 million new cancer cases by 2050, marking a 77% increase from an estimated 20 million cases in 2022.

With growing numbers and currently no cure for any cancer, scientists continue to explore new ways to both prevent and treat cancer.

Recently, researchers from the University of California, Riverside have found a new way to change the physical properties of a specific protein known to be the culprit in about 75% of all human cancer cases.

Scientists hope this new research, recently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, could lead to the development of new cancer treatments.

For this study, researchers focused on a specific protein called MYC.

MYC is a Health">transcription factor, which means it helps regulate the rate of copying genetic information from DNA to messenger RNA into Healthy cells.

With cancer cells, MYC becomes hyperactive and ultimately Health">helps cancer tumors grow.

Because of its involvement with cancer, previous studies have examined MYC as a potential treatment target.

“From a chemistry point of view, MYC is just really fascinating because it lacks a stable structure,” senior study author Dr. Min Xue, associate professor of pharmacological sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told Medical News Today.

“It is a glob of randomness, but somehow it carries out critical biological functions in a well-regulated manner. This intricate play between order and disorder is what attracts me the most. Plus, it is a very promising drug target, that’s a bonus,” he added.

“Cancer cells are hyperactive, and they replicate themselves without supervision. You can think of them as a mass-production pipeline of biomolecules. All these production processes are based on some blueprint, which is DNA. MYC facilitates access to that blueprint information, enabling a constant supply of building blocks for uncontrolled growth.”

— Dr. Min Xue, study co-author

MNT also spoke about this study with Dr. Wael Harb, a board certified hematologist and medical oncologist at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast and Saddleback Medical Centers in Orange County, CA.

Dr. Harb said his initial reaction to this research was cautious optimism.

“The MYC has always been a highly sought target because it’s involved in a lot of cancer progression and aggressiveness, but is mostly always considered one of these unbeatable targets because of its shape,” he explained.

“So to develop a peptide that can inhibit MYC is definitely exciting. It’s opened the door for potential new therapeutics that can help with these aggressive cancers.”

“There are several cancers known to activate MYC and (are) especially difficult to treat, like aggressive breast cancer, some [forms of] lung cancer, and a certain type of lymphoma called Burkitt’s lymphoma,” Dr. Harb continued. “These would be the highest priority to develop a drug that can block MYC and stop the growth of these tumors.”

For the next steps in this research, Dr. Harb said he would like to see this performed in preclinical models in animal studies and then hopefully advanced to human trials.

“We would really (look) forward to (seeing) this introduced to human trials where we can start testing this in patients with aggressive cancer and get a better understanding of the safety and efficacy. And then after we have proven this in advanced tumors, we will start looking at other tumors in earlier stages of cancer.”

— Dr. Wael Harb, hematologist and medical oncologist

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