Scientists Discover Novel Potential Therapy for Cancer Patients
Researchers from the UPCI (University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute) have discovered a new method to stop the proliferation of cancerous cells, thus leading them to uncover new therapy against cancer. Their research is funded by a grant received from the NIH (National Institutes of Health). The paper was published in the recently published issue of the Journal of Cell Science, revealing that if cancerous cells are deprived of a certain protein, they lose the ability to divide properly.
According to Bennett Van Houten, senior author and professor of molecular pharmacology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, the study he seniors is the first one to explain the process through which this specific protein stops the growth of cancerous cells. Professor Van Houten says that the current study should be the starting point of a novel type of cancer medication. Every cell in the human organism contains a variable number of mitochondria. These are structures that generate energy and are essential for the metabolism. The protein called Drp1 (dynamin-related protein 1) is responsible for mitochondrial fission, a process responsible for the formation of new mitochondria.
Researchers investigated both lung and breast cancer. The cells that were deprived of Drp1 were observed to halt their growth in the G2/M cellular division stage. Thus, the proliferation of the cancerous cells was stopped as well. Wei Qian, the lead author of the study managed to capture an image of a Drp1 deficient cell that stopped during the process of separating its chromosomes by using a confocal microscope. “Once we revealed this process for halting cancer cell growth by knocking out Drp1, we began looking into existing compounds that might utilize a similar mechanism”, said professor Van Houten. The research team also discovered a compound (Mdivi-1) that can cause cancerous cells to react in a similar manner to that of a Drp1 deficit. If this compound is used together with cisplatin (a platinum-containing anti-cancer drug that bind to the cell DNA and cause its cross-linking of DNA, thus triggering apoptosis.
Currently, the effects of Mdivi-1 on cisplatin are being studied in the laboratory. Professor Van Houten and his research team are trying to discover the mechanisms through which Mdivi-1 acts similar to a Drp1 deficit. “We were on the hunt for a drug that could make cancer cells deficient in Drp1 and, instead, we found a new cancer therapy that seems to work really well”, concluded Van Houten.