Experimental 'stapled peptide' drug blocks key cancer molecule

August 24, 2012
Experimental 'stapled peptide' drug blocks key cancer molecule

(Medical Xpress)—US scientists have developed an artificial molecule called a 'stapled peptide' that can shut down the cancer-fuelling effects of a molecule called Wnt. 

The peptide has so far only been tested in mice, but "may serve as a prototype " for patients, according to the researchers from Harvard Medical School. 

Wnt is part of a molecular signalling network that controls several normal . But this system of regulating the cell can go awry and lead to cancer. 

Faults in Wnt signalling are found in many cancers, particularly

The new peptide mimics the structure of a naturally occurring molecule called BCL9, which is necessary to transmit signals sent by Wnt in , but not in healthy cells. 

Because of its similarity to BCL9, the stops signals being sent, shutting off the cancer-driving signals inside cancer cells. 

Commenting on the US team's findings, Dr Mariann Bienz, a Cancer Research UK scientist from the MRC Laboratory of in Cambridge, said that scientists have been trying to find ways to block Wnt or the molecules it interacts with for several years. 

She said: "One of the biggest challenges in cancer research is finding ways to disarm the molecules that fuel the disease, and blocking the interaction between proteins inside cells is notoriously difficult. This work builds on ours and other groups, and shows that it's possible to block the cancer-promoting interaction between BCL9 and beta-catenin, two key proteins in the Wnt signalling pathway. 

"The technology they've used – called stapled peptides – is very interesting, and could be used against other molecules that are currently considered 'undruggable'." 

She also said that significant challenges remain. Scientists do not yet know whether stapled peptides-based treatments can effectively reach their targets inside cells, nor how they are processed by the body. 

"But this is a very active area of research, and it will be exciting to see where it leads," she added. 

Explore further: Regulation of telomerase in stem cells and cancer cells

More information: Takada, K. et al. (2012). Targeted Disruption of the BCL9/ -Catenin Complex Inhibits Oncogenic Wnt Signaling, Science Translational Medicine, 4 (148) 148ra117. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003808

Related Stories

Regulation of telomerase in stem cells and cancer cells

June 27, 2012
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg have gained important insights for stem cell research which are also applicable to human tumours and could lead to the development of new ...

Scientists discover how iron levels and a faulty gene cause bowel cancer

August 9, 2012
High levels of iron could raise the risk of bowel cancer by switching on a key pathway in people with faults in a critical anti-cancer gene, according to a study published in Cell Reports today.

Recommended for you

CAR-T immunotherapy may help blood cancer patients who don't respond to standard treatments

October 20, 2017
Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is one of the first centers nationwide to offer a new immunotherapy that targets certain blood cancers. Newly approved ...

Researchers pinpoint causes for spike in breast cancer genetic testing

October 20, 2017
A sharp rise in the number of women seeking BRCA genetic testing to evaluate their risk of developing breast cancer was driven by multiple factors, including celebrity endorsement, according to researchers at the University ...

Study shows how nerves drive prostate cancer

October 19, 2017
In a study in today's issue of Science, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, part of Montefiore Medicine, report that certain nerves sustain prostate cancer growth by triggering a switch that causes tumor vessels ...

Gene circuit switches on inside cancer cells, triggers immune attack

October 19, 2017
Researchers at MIT have developed a synthetic gene circuit that triggers the body's immune system to attack cancers when it detects signs of the disease.

One to 10 mutations are needed to drive cancer, scientists find

October 19, 2017
For the first time, scientists have provided unbiased estimates of the number of mutations needed for cancers to develop, in a study of more than 7,500 tumours across 29 cancer types. Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger ...

Researchers target undruggable cancers

October 19, 2017
A new approach to targeting key cancer-linked proteins, thought to be 'undruggable," has been discovered through an alliance between industry and academia.

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.