Discovery May Speed Up Targeted Cancer Therapy

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Mass spectrometry reveals all proteins that repair damaged cancer DNA.

Mass spectrometry reveals all proteins that repair damaged cancer DNA.

Targeting multiple proteins that repair damaged cancer DNA may accelerate the process of developing better cancer treatments.

A study published in the journal Science discovered how to map more than one protein at a time as these proteins repair damaged DNA. When DNA suffers damage, several different types of protein begin repairs, with the type of protein dependent on the damage done.

Previously, researchers studied proteins individually through a process called mass spectrometry. For the current study, researchers were able to simultaneously view all the proteins that help repair damaged DNA.

The new technique offers significant potential due to the effect of current chemotherapy drugs, which cause massive damage to DNA in order to kill cancerous cells. As a result of this, however, healthy cells are also damaged.

The new mass spectrometry method allows researchers to obtain greater knowledge into which proteins help repair the DNA and how the repairs are performed.

"We get a much clearer and more general picture of the reparatory process, i.e. where previously, we were only able to see one piece of the puzzle at a time, we are now able to see the entire puzzle,” said Niels Mailand of the Novo Nordisk Foundation Centre for Protein Research. “And this makes it a lot easier to see what is going on, and then work from there. The better we understand these processes, the better and gentler cancer treatments we can develop."

The researchers found that 2 specific and previously undescribed proteins serve a vital in repairing damaged DNA.

"This new method enables us to quickly get an overview of the entire bag of proteins that are important in terms of repairing damaged DNA,” Mailand said. “In this process, we have discovered that the two proteins have a specific part to play and attract certain necessary elements to a given spot where DNA-repairs are taking place. In other words, this new technique allows us to put the puzzle together much quicker.”

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