New drug target may nip cancer in the bud

Singapore: Scientists have discovered a potential new drug target - an enzyme - which could help weed out the progression of deadly cancer.

 Although past studies have revealed that the enzyme, Wip1 phosphatase, plays a critical role in regulating the budding of tumours, scientists have for the first time unearthed a mechanism for its mode of action.

 Researcher Dr Dmitry Bulavin and his team at ASTAR's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), Singapore, discovered that Wip1 phosphatase is a key factor that causes point mutations to sprout in human cancers.

 These types of mutations stem from errors that are made during DNA replication in the body, causing one base-pair in the DNA sequence to be altered.

 These mutations can cause cancers to take root, or to become resilient to treatment. By using drugs to inhibit the action of Wip1 phosphatase, cancer growth can be stunted and tumours can be cured without developing resistance.

 This is a ground-breaking finding that sheds light on how mutations in cancer can potentially be wiped out with drugs, allowing cancers to be treated and eliminated effectively, preventing relapses of tumour growth.

 "Our work on Wip1 phosphatase for over a decade has now revealed several key features of this molecule. Our current findings strongly support the use of an anti-Wip1 drug for cancer treatment in order to reduce a high frequency of mutations in the genome, which is one of the main drivers of tumour relapses," Bulavin said.

 "This discovery is monumental in providing novel understanding on the role of Wip1 in cancer at the genomic and systems levels," Prof Hong Wan Jin, Executive Director of IMCB, said.

 The study was published in the journal Cancer Cell.

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