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Research sheds light on workings of anti-cancer drug
Date:11/26/2009

The copper sequestering drug tetrathiomolybdate (TM) has been shown in studies to be effective in the treatment of Wilson disease, a disease caused by an overload of copper, and certain metastatic cancers. That much is known. Very little, however, is known about how the drug works at the molecular level.

A new study led by Northwestern University researchers now has provided an invaluable clue: the three-dimensional structure of TM bound to copper-loaded metallochaperones. The drug sequesters the chaperone and its bound copper, preventing both from carrying out their normal functions in the cell. For patients with Wilson disease and certain cancers whose initial growth is helped by copper-dependent angiogenesis, this is very promising.

This knowledge opens the door to the development of new classes of pharmaceutical agents based on metal trafficking pathways, as well as the further development of more efficient TM-based drugs. The study will be published in Science Express Nov. 26.

"Essential metals are at the center of many emerging problems in health, medicine and the environment, and this work opens the door to new biological experiments," said Thomas V. O'Halloran, the study's senior author and the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. He and geneticist Valeria Culotta of Johns Hopkins University discovered the first copper chaperone function in 1997.

O'Halloran and his research team studied the copper chaperone protein Atx1, which provides a good model of copper metabolism in animal cells. "We wondered what the drug tetrathiomolybdate did to copper chaperones -- proteins charged with safely ferrying copper within the cell -- and what we found was most amazing," O'Halloran said. "The drug brings three copper chaperones into close quarters, weaving them together through an intricate metal-sulfur cluster in a manner that essentially shuts
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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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