New Achilles Heel In Cancer Cells Discovered By Scientists
Researchers at the Cancer Research, UK have discovered that cancerous cells retain a certain toxic protein making them able to avoid apoptosis (programmed cell death). The discovery could lead to a new cancer treatment target. The study was published today in Nature Cell Biology online magazine.
During the study researchers removed a protein name FAK from cancerous cells grown in the lab and mice with cancer. The FAK protein combined with another protein named SRC work together and promote tumor dissemination and development. Removing the FAK protein, leaves the SRC protein unpaired which alone, in high amounts is very toxic for cancerous cells leading therefore to apoptosis. The only problem is researchers also found that, cancerous cells can adapt and eliminate the unbinded SRC protein and avoid death.
Scientists discovered that cancerous cell can actually digest the excess SRC protein (autophagy) by including them in vacuoles (organelle major with a role in maintaining a balance between the production and degradation, of certain substances and cellular structures). It was not previously know that cancerous cell can actually dispose SRC protein using this mechanism.
The conclusion was that by blocking FAK protein and also preventing cancerous cells from removing SRC could lead to apoptosis and therefore a new powerful treatment option for patients suffering from cancer.
Apoptosis is a form of programmed cell death, that triggers the process by which cells self-distruct in response to a signal. This process is genetically programmed. As a biological phenomenon, apoptosis has a great significance. A faulty development of apoptosis is the main cause of many diseases. Excessive cell loss characterizes Parkinson’s disease, while an insufficient apoptosis may involve uncontrolled cell proliferation, a mechanism underlying cancer.
Normally when healthy cells are getting old or damaged, they automatically trigger the apoptosis process but cancerous cell have managed to find new ways to continue to develop and divide. By knowing how exactly cancerous cells can cheat death and could lead to a total healing treatment
Drugs already in development, that act by blocking the FAK protein, combined with a method that could stop the cells from disposing excess toxic SRC could lead to apoptosis.