Fission Yeast Swap May Enhance Cancer Drug Research

Fission yeast is a low cost and fast system that can improve the cancer drug discovery process.

To cut down on time and cost, a new study revealed that fission yeast can replace human cells during the discovery process of cancer drugs.

Researchers primarily focused on a specific anti-cancer drug called ICRF-193, which targets a protein called DNA topoisomerase II. The fission yeast was treated with ICRF-193, and then researchers observed the effects.

The results of the study, published in Genes to Cells, showed that after DNA replication, the cells appeared to have difficulty separating. In fact, the mitotic spindle seemed to continue to lengthen, even though it failed to fully separate the 2 copies of DNA.

This created an arch-type shape that eventually broke apart in the middle. The “arched and snapped” seemed to be unique to the ICRF-193 treated cells.

Using this “arched and snapped” appearance, researchers can look for other drugs that affect fission yeast proteins in the same way.

Since the replication machinery and DNA-bound proteins of fission yeast are highly conserved and similar to other organisms, which includes humans, drugs that effect these proteins in fission yeast are likely to affect the related highly active proteins in human cancers, according to the study.

This opens the door for fission yeast to be used instead of human cells during the cancer drug discovery process, researchers noted.

Using an alternative to human cells would be beneficial in cancer research because some of the disadvantages that comes with their use in the initial stages. This includes having to test a large number of compounds to find one that is effective against a particular target; it’s time consuming; and the high cost of taking care of human cells and specific conditions required for the cells to grow.

“Fission yeast is a relatively fast, easy to use model system that is low cost [making it advantageous for use in drug screens],” said researcher Norihiko Nakazawa.

Since both time and cost can be enormous challenges in the drug development process, any discoveries that speeds up the process would help get patients promising cancer drugs sooner, according to the researchers.