Scientists discover how antibiotic molecule found in bacteria stops breast cancer

August 22, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Scientists have discovered how a molecule that was first discovered in bacteria blocks a protein which causes breast cancer to develop and spread, reveals research published in Nature Chemistry today.

Scientists at Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and The University of Cambridge, have revealed at the molecular level how thiostrepton - a naturally-occurring cancer-protector molecule - ‘clamps’ a cancer-causing called FOXM1, preventing it from working.

FOXM1 is present in greater amounts in cells. It attaches to specific stretches of DNA - switching on genes regulating the growth and division of cells. It also causes tumours to spread and triggers the growth of blood vessels which supply tumours with nutrients for growth.

Blocking this protein may prevent the development of cancer at an early stage as well as block cancer growth and spread.

Designing drugs to stop proteins like FOXM1 is a huge challenge for scientists. But this new information will allow researchers to design small that mimic thiostrepton – but are even more effective at blocking the cancer-promoting effects of FOXM1.

Lead author, Professor Shankar Balasubramanian, based at Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute, said: “Before this research we weren’t aware of any natural product which could directly target a protein that controls gene activity. Yet intriguingly a molecule in - which also has strong antibiotic effects - does this very well, switching off cancer-causing genes in breast cancer cells.

“This naturally-occurring molecule doesn’t have all the right properties to be used as a breast cancer treatment itself. But this exciting discovery paves the way for the design of more potent and selective drugs based on the structure of thiostrepton to block the FOXM1 protein.”

Around 48,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and around 12,100 UK women die from the disease.

Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer information, said: “Survival rates for breast cancer have been improving for 30 years thanks to the development of more targeted treatments. But there is more to be done. One huge challenge is how to prevent breast cancer from spreading to other parts of the body – once a cancer has spread it becomes more difficult to treat successfully.

“It’s fascinating to discover how a simple bacteria could hold the key to powerful new approaches to treat breast cancer developing and spreading.”

Explore further: Scientists discover how cancers generate muscle-like contractions to spread around the body

More information: The transcription factor FOXM1 is a cellular target of the natural product thiostrepton. Hegde et al. Nature Chemistry.

Related Stories

Scientists discover how cancers generate muscle-like contractions to spread around the body

August 16, 2011
Cancer Research UK-funded scientists have discovered that a protein called JAK triggers contractions in tumors which allows cancer cells to squeeze though tiny spaces and spread, in research published in Cancer Cell today.

'Detox protein' is collaborator in pancreatic and lung cancer development

July 6, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- UK scientists have revealed that a ‘detox’ protein which mops up harmful 'reactive oxygen' in cells could also trigger pancreatic and lung cancer development, according to a study published in ...

People fear cancer more than other serious illness

August 16, 2011
More than a third of people in the UK fear cancer more than other life-threatening conditions – such as Alzheimer’s, stroke and heart disease according to a Cancer Research UK survey.

Recommended for you

Vitamin C may encourage blood cancer stem cells to die

August 17, 2017
Vitamin C may "tell" faulty stem cells in the bone marrow to mature and die normally, instead of multiplying to cause blood cancers. This is the finding of a study led by researchers from Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone ...

Scientists develop novel immunotherapy technology for prostate cancer

August 17, 2017
A study led by scientists at The Wistar Institute describes a novel immunotherapeutic strategy for the treatment of cancer based on the use of synthetic DNA to directly encode protective antibodies against a cancer specific ...

Outdoor light at night linked with increased breast cancer risk in women

August 17, 2017
Women who live in areas with higher levels of outdoor light at night may be at higher risk for breast cancer than those living in areas with lower levels, according to a large long-term study from Harvard T.H. Chan School ...

Toxic formaldehyde is produced inside our own cells, scientists discover

August 16, 2017
New research has revealed that some of the toxin formaldehyde in our bodies does not come from our environment - it is a by-product of an essential reaction inside our own cells. This could provide new targets for developing ...

Cell cycle-blocking drugs can shrink tumors by enlisting immune system in attack on cancer

August 16, 2017
In the brief time that drugs known as CDK4/6 inhibitors have been approved for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, doctors have made a startling observation: in certain patients, the drugs—designed to halt cancer ...

Researchers find 'switch' that turns on immune cells' tumor-killing ability

August 16, 2017
Molecular biologists led by Leonid Pobezinsky and his wife and research collaborator Elena Pobezinskaya at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have published results that for the first time show how a microRNA molecule ...

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.