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Potential Drug to Tackle 'Undruggable' Fault in Third of Cancers

Update Date: Nov 05, 2014 02:46 PM EST

There could be a possible way to halt one of the most common faults in many types of cancer, according to a new research. 

Researchers have discovered a new strategy and a new potential drug to target an important signaling protein in cells called Ras, which is faulty in a third of cancers. 

When the Ras protein travels from the centre of a cell to the cell membrane, it becomes 'switched on' and sends signals which tell cells to grow and divide. Faulty versions of this protein cause too many of these signals to be produced - leading to cancer, the press release added.

Earlier attempts have been made to target Ras, but with little success. The reason the protein is difficult to target is because it lacks an obvious spot on its surface, absence of which makes it impossible for potential drug molecules to fit into in order to switch it off. 

However, now researchers have shown that instead directly targeting the faulty protein itself, they can stop it moving to the surface of the cell by blocking another protein which transports Ras. This approach would prevent it from the triggering cancer in the first place. 

"We've been scratching our heads for decades to find a solution to one of the oldest conundrums in cancer research. And we're excited to discover that it's actually possible to completely bypass this cancer-causing protein rather than attack it directly," said Dr Herbert Waldmann at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, in the press release.

"We're making new improvements on compounds for potential drugs, although the challenge still lies in developing a treatment that exploits this discovery without ruining the workings of healthy cells."

 "This is an exciting approach to targeting one of the most common faults in cancer, which could lead to a new way of treating the disease. The research is still at a very early stage and it will be years before it can benefit patients but it is a key step forward in the field," added Professor Matt Seymour, NCRI's clinical research director in the press release.

The research was presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference.

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