Chemists create molecule that prevents tumor cells from spreading

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An international team of scientists has discovered a gene that prevents cancer cells from spreading from a primary cancer site to invade other areas of the body.

A group of researchers, from the University of York, Leiden University and the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology), found that sugar-like molecules maintain the integrity of the tissue around the cancer during cancer. . Diabetics are indicated organic matter seems to reduce the spread of cancer in mice, paving the way for development into clinical applications.

How cancer cells invade

Metastasis, the spread of cancer cells to distant places in the body, is what makes cancer so deadly. The formation of metastasis depends on the ability of cancer cells to detach from the original tumor source and invade the vessel wall and tissue barrier to reach secondary growth sites. This process of metastatic invasion requires organisms called enzymes, which digest proteins and sugars in the space around the cells, which allows cancer cells to pass through the next gap.

One of the many types of sugar that surrounds cells is heparan sulfates, which are long chain-like molecules that help to balance the space. Heparan sulfate sugars are digested by an enzyme called heparanase, which works to cut the “chains” and thereby weaken the space.

Identify the target

Metastatic cancer cells produce a large amount of heparanase enzyme, which helps them spread in the body. Therefore, heparanase inhibition is a major target for cancer treatment.

The researchers developed and tested a new sugar-like molecule that reacts with the enzyme heparanase, whose 3D structure was first solved by York’s team. Once the new molecule binds, the heparanase enzyme is unable to bind or cut heparin sugar chains around the cells. In this way, the tissue surrounding the cells remains strong and cannot reach the loose cells.

At York, Professor Gideon Davies and Dr Liang Wu from the Department of Chemistry demonstrated how an enzyme inhibitor inhibits heparanase. The research team is now looking at how the cells can be improved.

How the research evolved

Professor Davies said, “It’s exciting to see the work evolve from basic research into enzyme structure and function and transition into small molecules with anti-cancer activity. It’s very exciting.”

Researchers at the Technion studied new genes in mouse models of lung cancer, breast cancer and blood cancer. While it is still early to determine whether the new drug will lead to clinical application, the results are interesting and the institutions involved have already applied for a patent on the drug.

Research leader Professor Hermen Overkleeft, from Leiden University, said, “Now we have to find out if the site is stable, healthy for the human body, ends up in the right place in large quantities, etc. two years; it may be nothing and someone must be willing to take that financial risk.

“Our gene is one of the few that can effectively and specifically inhibit heparanase. Drugs have a preference for simple viruses like this.”

Scientists have revealed the structure of a key cancer enzyme

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University of York

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