Oxford University researchers have recently discovered that tumor suppressor protein E2F could be the key to stopping malignant tumor from growing and destroying healthy cells and spare us a battle with cancer. This lethal expansion called metastasis is the deadliest aspect of cancerous tumor.
The drug-discovery screen done by Oxford University researchers showed that the compound results in the death of cancer cells because it blocks the E2F protein change to ‘Mr. Hyde.’
“We discovered this protein originally in the early 1990s, and since then we’ve discovered quite a lot (about it),” study author Nick La Thangue, a professor in the department of oncology at Oxford, told FoxNews.com. “It’s a target, regulated by a tumor suppressor gene, and the pathway has been shown to be abnormal in virtually all tumor cells, which drives the proliferation forward.”
In a study published in Molecular Cell journal, researchers explained that E2Fs notoriously split personality either boost and continuously grow tumor cells or suppress them and switch to cell death mode is controlled by two different enzymes.
When E2Fs is functioning properly, this protein helps guide the cells through all the states of development. E2F protein is found in all the cells in our body, but tumor cells have larger amounts of this protein.
“It’s an enzyme modification, and it’s quite an unusual modification called arginine methylation,” La Thangue said. “It’s actually quite amazing stuff, because there are two different types of arginine methylation, and they differ by a small amount of chemistry. One form provides a (molecular label) that makes the cell proliferate, and the other makes it die.”
The enzymes signal cell proliferation or cell death, and it is hyperactive and overpowers the enzyme for cell death.
La Thangue explained that as Mr. Hyde, the E2F helped healthy cell regulation when it is functioning properly, but it reverts to Dr. Jekyll and signals the cells to die when it is damaged. This process which researchers call apoptosis can prevent cancer development.
However, when cells start to grow and E2F loses its ability to foster cell death, it permanently remains in its Mr. Hyde state and enhances the proliferation of cancer cells.
Drug compounds that target overactive enzyme
The findings in the protein’s biological mechanism offer tantalizing opportunities to identify drug compounds to target the overactive enzyme and develop future treatments.
La Thangue said that they were a few years away from moving into clinical trial, and he is confident that this new drug could control metastasis in virtually all cancers who could extremely benefit patients.
Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas