Scientists stuff cancer protein to keep it switched off

Scientists today claimed to have developed a novel method of keeping a cancer-triggering protein dormant, giving a ray of hope to thousands of patients who die from the fatal disease every year.

Washington: Scientists today claimed to have developed a novel method of keeping a cancer-triggering protein dormant, giving a ray of hope to thousands of patients who die from the fatal disease every year.

A team of scientists from University of Colorado Cancer Center and other US-based Universities have identified a protein called 'Ral' which is behind growth of tumour and its spread in the body in several forms of the disease including pancreatic, prostate, lung, colon and bladder cancers.

India is one of the countries which has burgeoning population of cancer patients as recent study suggested there are 28 lakh prevalent cases of all types of cancer, while at least eight lakh new cases are being witnessed every year.

According to International Agency for research on Cancer, India has nearly eight per cent of global cancer cases.

Trying to find a targeted therapy, the team of scientists found that there were changes in the structure of 'Ral' protein as it changed from inactive to active state.

They identified that in dormant state, the protein had a cavity which vanished as it switched on.

There are no drugs available that could block the activity of the protein so scientists tried to stuff the cavity with compounds so it could not change its structure and become active, the findings published in the latest edition of journal 'Nature' said.

Through computer modelling they docked over five lakh compounds in the cavity through which they shortlisted 88 small molecules which could be fitted in the protein.

"When you want to keep an alligator from biting you, you can tie its mouth shut. We took another approach-?we put a stick in its mouth to hold it open," said lead author of the study Dan Theodorescu, Professor of Urology and Pharmacology at the Cancer Centre.

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