Fish Toxin Stops Cancer Growth

Toxin may inhibit cell division in cancerous cells.

Toxin may inhibit cell division in cancerous cells.

University of Freiburg researchers have isolated a fish toxin that could bolster cancer treatments.

Afp18 is part of the Yersinia ruckeri genome, a pathogen family responsible for the redmouth disease in salmon and trout and the bubonic plague in humans.

The toxin Afp18 deactivates the protein RhoA. RhoA is responsible for many vital processes in human and fish. It has the ability to build up and break down actin filaments, which are necessary for cell division.

Dr. Thomas Jank and his team, led by Dr. Klaus Aktories, discovered that while this protein is important for cell life, it is also a key element in cancer development as well. With help from Dr. Daan von Aalten from the University of Dundee, the team used x-ray analysis to look at the protein on an atomic level, which showed that Rho-regulatory proteins are heavily involved in the growth of cancer.

Scientists injected this toxin into zebra fish embryos. Upon injection, cell division was blocked and the embryos did not develop. If this pathogen were to be controlled, it could stop cell division in cancerous cells.

Cancer itself is uncontrolled growth of cells, so a toxin that deactivates a protein responsible for cell growth could be critical in any cancer treatment. If select parts of this protein could be shut down, cancer may be stopped in its earliest stages of growth.

This study was published in Nature Communications.