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Huge cancer breakthrough as scientists kill infected cells by getting them addicted to drugs

By maggiemay at Feb. 3, 2016, 9 a.m., 14224 hits

By Ruth Halkon , Tim Bugler

The technique, called “mito-priming”, has been hailed by researchers as a breakthrough in the fight against the killer disease

Scientists have found a new way to combat cancer by getting tumour cells “addicted” to drugs that will kill them in minutes.

The technique, called “mito-priming”, has been hailed by researchers as a breakthrough in the fight against the killer disease.

Scientists at the Beatson Institute in Glasgow, which is run by Cancer Research UK and closely linked to Glasgow University, developed the “significant” technique as a research tool while trying to understand how cancer cells die.

The technique could be applied to identify new anti-cancer drugs, such as so-called “BH3-mimetics” medications, and screen their effectiveness.

BH3-mimetics, a “very promising” new class of cancer drugs developed to specifically kill tumour cells, target a family of proteins called BCL-2 proteins, which function to keep cancer cells alive.

While not yet in use in clinical practice, BH3-mimetic anti-cancer drugs are showing great promise in late-stage clinical trials, particularly in the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).

Researchers at Glasgow University's Institute of Cancer Sciences believe their pioneering mito-priming method can be applied to screen for new drugs to target BCL-2 proteins and help find new ways to kill cancer cells.

Senior lecturer Dr Stephen Tait said today: “We have developed a new way to make any cell type sensitive to BH3-mimetic treatment. We term this method mito-priming.

”Mito-priming can be used to rapidly screen for new BH3-mimetics and other anti-cancer drugs, and should improve ways to kill cancer cells.

“It can also be used to rapidly define the potency and specificity of BH3-mimetics.

”Finally, the technique will allow us to understand how drug resistance occurs thereby allowing us to prevent this from happening in the first place.

“There is currently a lot of interest in targeting BCL2 proteins in the fight against cancer and there will be new therapies emerging in the future. We are hopeful our new method of mito-priming can be used as a platform to discover new drugs to target BCL-2 proteins.”

The scientists developed mito-priming by producing equal amounts of toxic and protective BCL-2 proteins in cells.

Dr Tait said: “Cells in this state are very sensitive to inhibition of protective BCL-2 function by BH3-mimetics, such that they die within a few minutes of drug addiction.”

The research is reported in a paper titled “Mito-priming as a method to engineer Bcl-2 Addiction”, published in the academic journal “Nature Communications”.


— Last Edited by Dixie at 2016-02-05 14:14:21 —

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