Human Made Protein Inhibits The Spread Of Breast Cancer

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The activity of a gene that facilitates the spread of breast cancer was disrupted by human-made peptides (protein) in a recent animal study. The gene is called WASF3.

Though the disrupting peptides are still being developed, researchers know they are already inhibiting the WASF3 process that causes breast cancer to spread. There is evidence the human-made peptides will treat prostate and colon cancer as well.

In earlier work, researchers deleted the WASF3 gene in cancer cells, and then observed that cancer’s ability to spread was diminished. However, deleting this gene in humans is not yet possible.

The current human-made peptides work by competing for protein binding sites between WASF3 and two supporting cells, CYFIP1, and NCKAP1. Chemotherapy, which generally involves small molecules that get inside rapidly dividing cells, does not interfere with these larger protein to protein interactions occurring on cell surfaces.

The most recent human-made peptide trial was done using a mouse model with an aggressive form of human breast cancer, a form that does not typically respond well to standard therapies. The WASF3 gene is expressed in all aggressive breast cancers, and at some point it stimulates other genes that cause tumors to spread.

So far the human-made peptides remain in the circulatory system about 30 minutes, but researchers want them to last up to three hours. “We are constantly tweaking the structure and nature of these peptides to try and get them to last longer,” says Dr. John K. Cowell, interim director of the Georgia Cancer Center and professor in the Department of Pathology at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

Since the human-made peptides do not appear to diminish the size of tumors, they will likely become part of a treatment cocktail when used to help humans.

Source: Augusta University
Photo credit: James Baker

 

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