July 14, 2013
Nutrient Starvation Protein Could Be Cancer Cell Target

Life is like a big game of Russian Roulette where our DNA gets mutated every day and the right combination of mutations could drive a cell to start dividing like mad. Months later a doctor delivers bad news about your scheduled check-out from the Life Hotel. You never know when cancer might strike. The revolver is spinning and the trigger is being pulled every second. So that's why I take an especially large interest in cancer research. Some British researchers think maybe they've found an Achilles Heel in cancer cells: the protein eEF2K.

Chris Proud, Professor of Cellular Regulation in Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton says: "Cancer cells grow and divide much more rapidly than normal cells, meaning they have a much higher demand for and are often starved of, nutrients and oxygen. We have discovered that a cellular component, eEF2K, plays a critical role in allowing cancer cells to survive nutrient starvation, whilst normal, healthy cells do not usually require eEF2K in order to survive. Therefore, by blocking the function of eEF2K, we should be able to kill cancer cells, without harming normal, healthy cells in the process."

Almost all cells in the human body contain the same basic components, meaning that to attack one of them in a cancer cell, that component will also be affected in normal cells. This study has identified a specific protein that is not necessary in normal cells but seems to be important to the survival of cancerous cells. A treatment that could block this protein could represent a significant breakthrough in the future of cancer treatment.

Most cancers aren't going to get entirely wiped out by a single weakness or vulnerability. But if we can build up enough different ways to selectively strike at cancer cells then a cure would be possible. But when will that happen? Before or after the Russian Roulette spin hits for each of us?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 July 14 07:28 PM 

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