Cancerous route

Better cancer drugs may be on the anvil with researchers finding a cell protein that helps cancer spread

Published: Sunday 15 September 2002

researchers have found that increased production of src, a protein found in the membranes of all the cells, is responsible for cancerous cells breaking away from the affected body parts and spreading further. A comprehensive understanding of this process is likely to help find better treatment for cancer.

The findings were the result of the work conducted by researchers from Beatson Institute for Cancer Research and Institute of Biological and Life Sciences, both located in Glasgow, the uk. They found that in colon cancer this protein becomes over-active. This affects the cell-to-cell contact within the tissue by removing another molecule, e-cadherin, which holds the cells together. Because of the e-cadherin removal, cancerous cells are able to move and spread faster to other body parts.

However, the researchers are clueless about the reason behind the over activity of the protein. "One of the reasons may be the mutation of the gene that produces the protein," says Margaret C Frame from the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research. Still, knowing how the molecule aids cancer cells would help develop drugs which either slow down the progression of the cancer or stop its spread to other body parts. Moreover, the researchers assert that as the molecule works in a similar fashion in different types of other cancers such as that of breast, prostate and ovary, a single drug can be used against a variety of cancers. But, the drugs might not work in cancers such as leukaemia where the activity of src has not been found.

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