Understanding of Protein Mechanism May Improve Cancer Drugs

Researchers advance understanding of how breast cancer drugs work inside human cells.

New findings involving the mechanisms of a group of proteins that help to switch on and off critical genes during blood-cell production may lead to the development of new and improved cancer drugs.

This special group of proteins are able to form into an enzyme that turns these genes on and off to produce essential elements in the body, such as stem cells and blood cells.

“This enzyme is like a car and the proteins are the different parts that are used to make it,” said researcher Daniel Ryan. “By knowing how these parts fit together, we can understand how the car works and hence we’re in a better position to fix it when something goes wrong. We still need to pull the enzyme apart and explore the interactions between the various proteins involved to really grapple with this complex molecular machinery.”

One of the proteins in particular is linked to breast cancer, and according to researchers, it may help explain how current breast cancer drugs work inside human cells.

“There are treatments for breast cancer which are in use today that are effective but we still don’t know how they work,” Ryan said. “This research shines a light on an important set of proteins that could be targeted by these drugs and superior treatments yet to be developed.”

The research conducted by Ryan is part of an international collaboration that aims to understand the mechanisms for gene regulation and, in particular, the association to diseases, such as blood disorders and cancer.

“By creating better target treatments for breast cancer and other serious diseases, we’ll have better outcomes for patients because we’ll be able to reduce toxicity and the risk of drug resistance,” Ryan said. “Our ongoing research will help to advance our knowledge of how genes are regulated — a phenomenon that is not only vital to normal functions in the body, but also a key factor in many diseases.”