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

Scientists develop blood test that spots tumor-derived DNA in people with early-stage cancers

August 16, 2017
In a bid to detect cancers early and in a noninvasive way, scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center report they have developed a test that spots tiny amounts of cancer-specific DNA in blood and have used it to ...

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 ...

Popular immunotherapy target turns out to have a surprising buddy

August 16, 2017
The majority of current cancer immunotherapies focus on PD-L1. This well studied protein turns out to be controlled by a partner, CMTM6, a previously unexplored molecule that is now suddenly also a potential therapeutic target. ...

A metabolic treatment for pancreatic cancer?

August 15, 2017
Pancreatic cancer is now the third leading cause of cancer mortality. Its incidence is increasing in parallel with the population increase in obesity, and its five-year survival rate still hovers at just 8 to 9 percent. Research ...

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.