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New enzyme targets for selective cancer therapies
Date:8/22/2014

(Edmonton) Thanks to important discoveries in basic and clinical research and technological advances, the fight against cancer has mobilized into a complex offensive spanning multiple fronts.

Work happening in a University of Alberta chemistry lab could help find new and more selective therapies for cancer. Researchers have developed a compound that targets a specific enzyme overexpressed in certain cancersand they have tested its activity in cells from brain tumours.

Chemistry professor Christopher Cairo and his team synthesized a first-of-its-kind inhibitor that prevents the activity of an enzyme called neuraminidase. Although flu viruses use enzymes with the same mechanism as part of the process of infection, human cells use their own forms of the enzyme in many biological processes.

Cairo's group collaborated with a group in Milan, Italy, that has shown that neuraminidases are found in excess amounts in glioblastoma cells, a form of brain cancer.

In a new study, a team from the National Cancer Institute tested Cairo's enzyme inhibitor and found that it turned glioblastoma cancer stem cellsfound within a tumour and believed to drive cancer growthinto normal cells. The compound also caused the cells to stop growing, suggesting that this mechanism could be important for therapeutics. Results of their efforts were published Aug. 22 in the Nature journal Cell Death & Disease.

Cairo said these findings establish that an inhibitor of this enzyme could work therapeutically and should open the door for future research.

"This is the first proof-of-concept showing a selective neuraminidase inhibitor can have a real effect in human cancer cells," he said. "It isn't a drug yet, but it establishes a new target that we think can be used for creating new, more selective drugs."

Long road from proof of concept to drug

Proving the compound can successfully inhibit the n
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Contact: Bryan Alary
bryan.alary@ualberta.ca
780-492-0436
University of Alberta
Source:Eurekalert  

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