Washington: Scientists have discovered a keychemical process in the body which sometimes goes wrong andcauses cancer, a finding that could lead to the development ofnew drugs and therapies to treat such disease. Researchers at Brown University and Rhode Island Hospitalin the US found that prolactin receptors -- membranes proteinsthat play a vital role in cellular communications -- are likecellular wiring and susceptible to short circuits that cancause cancer.
This process can draw prolactin receptors together into astructure called a "dimer". Like a pair of chopsticks, thisdimer structure is just right to pick up growth factors in thebody that can lead to cancerous growth, said Y Eugene Chin ofthe Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. "Our findings may provide an important clue about how todevelop drugs to break down receptor dimers in breast cancertherapy," said Chin, a senior author of the study that alsoinvolved researchers from Zhejiang University School ofMedicine in China and the University of Rochester in New York. Normally, a shared positive electrical charge and theresulting mutual repulsion keeps prolactin receptors fromcoming together. In their experiments, the team found that when prolactinbinds to the receptors outside the cells, the acetylationneutralises that charge on the receptors inside the cells,allowing the receptor molecules to come together, Chin said. The more prolactin receptors a cell has, the moresusceptible it is to this problem occurring, Chin said.Overexpression of prolactin receptors in patients has beenlinked to cancer in the past. Chin, who has been investigating the molecular basis ofcancer for years, said he was encouraged about uncovering thisnew step and pointed to drugs, such as Herceptin, that targetreceptors to combat cancer. "This will be extremely important for breast cancer andother cancer therapy by targeting receptors," he said. One possibility, he said, will be developing monoclonalantibodies to target the prolactin receptors directly. Butartificial compounds could also be developed to block thereceptors from joining as dimers.PTI
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