Molecule that suffocates cancer cells discovered

In a remarkable medical breakthrough, researchers at the Cancer Research UK have found a new molecule that suffocates cancer cells in low oxygen environments.

In the new discovery, researchers have unfolded a new molecule that blocks the master switch, HIF-1, which allows cancer cells to thrive in low oxygen levels.

How new cancer fighting molecule works?
Using the ‘synthetic biology’ approach the researchers discovered a way to impair the growth of cancer cells.

After testing 3.2 million potential compounds, developed from specially engineered bacteria, researchers found a molecule that stopped the working of HIF-1.

All cancer cells required an uninterrupted blood supply that provides them with the oxygen and nutrients required for survival.

As cancer tumors grow rapidly, they often outstrip the supply of oxygen and nutrients that the blood vessels can deliver.

It is now that master switch, HIF-1, comes into play.

To cope with this low-oxygen environment, HIF-1 turns on hundreds of genes. It also triggers the formation of new blood vessels around tumors, leading to more oxygen and nutrient supply to the starving tumor, allowing it to respond and survive.

The new molecule blocks the working of master switch, HIF-1, thus suffocating the cancer cells, researchers said.

“We’ve found a way to target the steps that cancer cells take to survive and we hope that our research will one day lead to effective drugs that can stop cancers adapting to a low oxygen environment, stopping their growth. The next step is to further develop this molecule to create an effective treatment,” Dr. Ali Tavassoli, a Cancer Research UK scientist whose team discovered and developed the compound at the University of Southampton, said.

Dr Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “Finding ways to disrupt the tools that cancer cells use to adapt and grow when starved of oxygen has been a hot topic in cancer research, but finding drugs that do this effectively has proved elusive.

“For the first time our scientists have found a way to block a master switch controlling cells response to low levels of oxygen — an important step towards creating drugs that could halt cancer in its tracks.”

The findings of the study appear in the July 26 issue the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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