A potential new therapy by the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center is targeting a cancer protein designed to dispose of unwanted cellular proteins during autophagy. By preventing the cancer cell from disposing of these proteins, it dies.
“Therapies that are designed to block the early stages of autophagy do not offer the possibility of exploiting its potentially lethal effects,” said Steven Grant, M.D., Shirley Carter Olsson and Sture Gordon Olsson Chair in Cancer Research, associate director for translational research and program co-leader of Developmental Therapeutics at VCU Massey Cancer Center. “Our strategy turns autophagy from a protective process into a toxic one, and these results suggest it could increase the effectiveness of a variety of cancer therapies that induce autophagy.”
Critical to the success of this therapy is Bik, a protein that plays a significant role in governing cell death and survival. During cancer treatments, Bik accumulates in cancer cells until it triggers apoptosis. Normally, the cancer cells would induce autophagy and p62 would rid the cells of Bik by loading the proteins into degradation chambers known as auotophagosomes for disposal. However, blocking p62 production results in an inefficient form of autophagy and the accumulation of Bik eventually causes the cancer cells to undergo apoptosis.
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