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Peptide shield potentially leads to treatment that cancer can't resist

Date: 6.11.2017 

Researchers at the University of Rochester have developed a new method for cutting off cancer's ability to proliferate. The technique works by blocking certain proteins that cancer cells use to trigger uncontrolled growth in neighboring healthy cells, and it could lead to a new kind of treatment that cancer can't develop a resistance to. 
Kredit: University of Rochester.

Proteins use the hedgehog signaling pathway to stimulate cells to grow and spread, so it's particularly active while humans (and all mammals) are developing in the womb. By the time an animal reaches adulthood, however, the pathway mostly lies dormant and is only active in those cells that are constantly regenerating, like our skin.

But some types of cancer proliferate by hijacking this largely abandoned pathway. Cancer cells produce certain ligands, molecules that bind to receptors on the surface of nearby healthy cells. That leads the healthy cells to release growth molecules, which causes a runaway effect of unregulated cell growth. In turn, that increases the amount of cancerous cells and the cycle continues exponentially.

Recognizing this, the Rochester team developed a method to block the hedgehog signaling pathway. The researchers developed a cyclic peptide that effectively forms a shield around healthy cells, preventing the cancer's protein messengers from getting inside and triggering the release of growth molecules.

The cyclic peptides target the healthy cells, not the cancerous ones. By interrupting the pathway at the receiving end instead of on the cancer cells themselves, cancer isn't likely to be able to develop a resistance to the treatment.



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