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DOE laboratories help develop promising new cancer fighting drug, vemurafenib
Date:8/18/2011

DOE Laboratories Help Develop Promising New Cancer Fighting Drug, Vemurafenib

Powerful X-Rays Enable Development of Successful Treatment for Melanoma and Other Life-Threatening Diseases

WASHINGTON, DC Powerful X-ray technology developed at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) national laboratories is revealing new insights into diseases ranging from Alzheimer's to the swine flu, and, most recently, enabled the discovery of a groundbreaking new drug treatment for malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The drug, Zelboraf (vemurafenib), received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval on Wednesday. In showing the structures of diseased and disease-causing molecules at their basic level, these extremely bright light sources enable scientists to suggest potential new treatments.

"This technology is a wonderful example of how innovations at our national laboratories lead to discoveries in a wide variety of fields," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "In this case, we are pleased to have been involved in research that has shown great promise in the battle against life-threatening melanoma."

An increasing number of drug discovery companies and medical researchers are turning to the powerful X-ray facilities at the DOE national laboratories to probe the causes of disease and develop new treatments. Researchers from Plexxikon Inc., the drug discovery company that developed the melanoma treatment, used X-ray light sources at three national laboratories SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratoryto determine the specific, 3-D protein structure of a mutated enzyme that tells melanoma cancer cells to multiply uncontrollably.

The researchers used a technique called "macromolecular X-ray crystallography" to develop a drug that would prevent the enzyme from doing this. The newly FDA-approved drug, Zelboraf (vemurafenib), was extremely succe
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Contact: Jeff Sherwood
jeff.sherwood@hq.doe.gov
202-586-4940
DOE/US Department of Energy
Source:Eurekalert

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