Protein to block cancer producing gene tested
UN/DICYT The strategy implemented consists of analyzing a transforming mechanism of the Tip protein into carrying sequences which can block Ras oncogenes, in charge of cancer development.
As explained by UNal Medicine Professor Jean Paul Vernot, who added that many cancer mutations occur in oncogenes, which in biomedical lingo are known as “conductors”, due to their malignant development.
On commenting the status of the research projects carried out by the UNal Cellular and Molecular Physiology Group, Vernot said that in cell membranes there is a kind of signaling platform known as lipid rafts where several molecules process “information” from the environment from other cells to develop or not.
Some Ras oncogenes (cancer producing genes) are located on these rafts. Ras oncogenes are responsible for 20% of solid cancers, i.e. blood unrelated cancers. It is the ‘conductor’ oncogenes that located on the rafts, alters molecules and produces uncontrolled cell division.
Currently there are many efforts to develop compounds to restrain this oncogene. One is inhibition from an enzyme known as farnesyltransferase which chemically modifies Ras oncogenes to remain in lipid rafts. However these compounds have been clinical tested with not very promising results.
There are other strategies being tested to observe how Ras can be modified. The UNal group is researching using certain parts of the herpesvirus saimiri transforming protein (Tip) which squirrel monkeys are carriers.
Nevertheless when the virus infects humans or other primate species it produces fulminant lymphomas. The Tip protein then activates enzymes that induce malignant transformations.
“We have developed a concept test buy using defined and short Tip areas to activate or inhibit an enzyme within the lipid raft on normal T lymphocyte membranes. Recently scientists discovered that this molecule is responsible for cell development in some types of leukemia,” said the researcher.
For now they have chosen important Ras amino acid sequences and have selected cell lines in order to test these peptides.
“There is still much work to be carried out, apart from the academic issue, which is complex, because we have to contend with management which sometimes does not understand the relevance of what we are trying to pursue,” said Vernot.