Researchers at Emory University have developed a novel anti-tumor compound that represents a distinct strategy: targeting one of the most important "intercept points" for cancer cells.
The results of research on the compound in mice appear in the Jan. 1 issue of Cancer Research. The article is highlighted on the cover.
The compound was used for the first time in human patients with solid tumors in 2007.
The idea behind the intercept point strategy is to shut down the transmission of a large number of growth signals in cancer cells at once, says senior author Donald L. Durden, MD, PhD, professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine and the Emory Winship Cancer Institute.
Dr. Durden, scientific director of the Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Service at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, compares a cancer cell to a building with too many of the lights left on.
"Doctors have been trying to treat cancer by turning out the lights in one room at a time, instead of going after the transformer box," he says.
Dr. Durden and his colleagues targeted a class of enzymes called PI-3 kinases, which represent an intercept point and occupy valuable real estate in almost every cell in the body.
"Nature made these enzymes central in controlling growth, differentiation and survival," he says. But you can't hit only one of them; they're redundant."
The intercept point concept of drug development was featured in a December 2007 review in Nature Clinical Practice Neurology by the Durden laboratory.
Scientists have found genes that encode the PI-3 kinases to be mutated in a large number of tumor types, putting them in overdrive. In addition, a single enzyme that opposes PI-3 kinases, called the PTEN phosphatase, is inactivated in a large fraction of human prostate, brain, endometrial and breast cancers--between 20 and 50 percent depending on the cell type.
In the Cancer Re
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