Light triggers death switch in cancer cells

October 16, 2013

Researchers at Cardiff University have created a peptide (a small piece of protein), linked to a light-responsive dye, capable of switching 'on' death pathways in cancer cells. The peptide remains inactive until exposed to external light pulses which convert it into a cell death signal.

Complex mechanisms in normally protect us from developing cancer. However, when the finely balanced networks of interactions between proteins that control such mechanisms are disturbed, can occur.

The Cardiff team has developed a peptide-switch to alter critical interactions in B-cell lymphoma in a 'smart' and controlled way. This new pathway activation technology, called transient photoactivation, may enable scientists to identify cells normally resistant to chemotherapy leading to the development of more effective treatment strategies.

Professor Rudolf Allemann from Cardiff University's School of Chemistry, who led the research, said:

"Whilst killing cancer cells is a goal in itself, this is also proof of a wider principle. Directing therapeutic peptides to the precise location where they are required can be difficult, but activating with light will allow us to precisely define the area where we wish a peptide to act.

"Our research demonstrates that we can control cellular processes with light, which has implications for research in biology and medicine, as our tools can be used to understand the inner workings of cells and to work out how to correct misfiring pathways that lead to disease.

"This work may eventually lead to photo-controlled drugs and tools to probe molecular interactions in intact and whole organisms with enormous consequences for biomedical research."

Explore further: Stopping cancer in its tracks?

Related Stories

Stopping cancer in its tracks?

August 27, 2013
We've come a long way in cancer treatments – we have powerful, effective drugs for many types of cancer and we're moving toward ever more specific, less invasive therapies. But the problem with cancer is that it's always ...

Experimental 'stapled peptide' drug blocks key cancer molecule

August 24, 2012
(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. 

Cancer biology: Targeting tumors with 'stapled' peptides

July 17, 2013
(Phys.org) —Designer peptides containing chemically stabilized helices emerge as a potent way to activate anti-tumor proteins inside cells.

Some immune cells appear to aid cancer cell growth, study finds

September 5, 2013
The immune system is normally known for protecting the body from illness. But a subset of immune cells appear to be doing more harm than good.

Battling defiant leukemia cells

October 7, 2013
Two gene alterations pair up to promote the growth of leukemia cells and their escape from anti-cancer drugs, according to a study in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Newly discovered weakness in cancer cells make them more susceptible to chemotherapy

August 29, 2013
A new weakness has been discovered in cancer cells that may make them more susceptible to chemotherapy and other treatments. In a research report appearing in the September 2013 issue of The FASEB Journal, scientists identify ...

Recommended for you

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 ...

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 ...

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. ...

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.