Researchers discover new potential chemotherapy

December 13, 2012

Medical researchers at the University of Alberta have discovered that knocking out a particular "partner" gene is the Achilles' heel of some cancers.

Cancer causing genes often have a partner in crime, meaning when either of the two genes is active in cancer cells, the grows. The challenge for researchers has been pinpointing the genes' "lethal partners." Loss of one of the partners alone isn't deadly to the cell, but if both are gotten rid of, the cancer cells are destroyed.

Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry researcher Michael Weinfeld and his collaborators, Edan Foley and graduate student Todd Mereniuk, took cells and artificially removed a particular gene known as PKNP. Then the team knocked out 7,000 other , one at a time, all in an effort to find PKNP's "lethal partners" that trigger cell death.

And the team found it—a deadly partner gene, a rare type of cancer suppressor typically missing in lymphomas.

The team confirmed their findings by examining tumours that lacked this specific cancer suppressor. They then inactivated PKNP, which caused the cancer cells to die. Their findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal Cancer Research.

Developing cancer drugs that inactivate PKNP will result in only the cancer cells that lack this gene being eradicated, not healthy, normal cells, says Weinfield, who works in the Department of Oncology at the U of A.

"Lots of work in the cancer research field is to try and come up with ways to attack and leave normal cells intact," he says. "You need to take advantage of whatever you can to defeat cancer, which can be extremely difficult."

Weinfeld and his colleagues are now working with Dennis Hall in the Department of Chemistry at the U of A and the Centre for Drug Research and Development in British Columbia to improve this potential drug they've discovered. They are also partnering with John Lewis, the Frank and Carla Sojonky Chair in Prostate Cancer Research in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, to work with his cancer-targeting nanotechnology theories.

Explore further: New research sheds light on gene destruction linked to aggressive prostate cancer

Related Stories

Prostate cancer early warning protein detected

May 31, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Scientists at the University have discovered a protein, only present in prostate cancer cells, that could be used as a marker to detect early signs of the disease.     

BRG1 mutations confer resistance to hormones in lung cancer

March 15, 2012

Retinoic acid (vitamin A) and steroids are hormones found in our body that protect against oxidative stress, reduce inflammation and are involved in cellular differentiation processes. One of the characteristics of tumours ...

Recommended for you

Scientists developing new test for breast cancer

September 29, 2016

Scientists at The Australian National University (ANU) are working with researchers in France to develop a new potential way to detect and monitor breast cancer that could involve a simple blood test.

Tumor paint brings light to toddler's brain tumor

September 28, 2016

In December of last year, Laura Coffman began to notice that something wasn't quite right with her 2-year-old son, Hunter. He was leaning to one side and seemed to lose his balance easily. When he became lethargic and started ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.