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Researchers identify potential new avenue to attack cancer
Date:8/12/2009

EAST LANSING, Mich. New insight into how human cells reproduce, published by cancer researchers at Michigan State University and the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, could help scientists move closer to finding an "off switch" for cancer.

Cancer cells divide uncontrollably and can move from one part of the body to another. They undergo dramatic shifts in shape when they do so, said Aaron DeWard, an MSU cell and molecular biology doctoral candidate who published his research recently in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. He's trying to figure out how certain proteins trigger cell movement and division and how cancer hijacks the system to create genomic instability.

DeWard and his academic adviser, VARI senior scientific investigator Art Alberts, investigated proteins called formins that help determine the shape of a cell during division and movement. They identified a new mechanism for regulation of formins during cell division.

"One of the cool things about these proteins is that they're tightly regulated they will only do their jobs when they're told to do so," DeWard said, describing formins as the workers that put together the pieces that shape a cell.

"A lot of work has been done on how to get these proteins to work, but not when to stop working," he said. "We identified the way in which these proteins get flagged for destruction. This mechanism is pretty common for a lot of proteins, but had never been shown for this family of proteins before, and no one really knew how to shut them off completely."

The family of proteins DeWard and Alberts are studying could lend themselves well to pharmaceutical treatment, he added.

"Aaron's observation gives us a handle on the molecular machinery controlling cell division," Alberts said. "Our goal now is to exploit this information in the development of strategies to specifically stop the process of uncontrolled cell division that characte
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Contact: Mark Fellows
mark.fellows@ur.msu.edu
517-884-0166
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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