Day of Cluj | Major discovery in cancer research. The method by which malignant cells can be destroyed

A team of German scientists has made a very promising discovery in cancer research. The next step, drug development.

Scientists have identified the cellular structures that protect the cancer genome. Destroying these structures would kill cancer cells, the researchers say.

MYC genes and the proteins they encode play a central role in the onset and development of nearly all cancers. They lead to uncontrolled growth and impaired metabolism of cancer cells and help tumors hide from the immune system.

However, MYC proteins also have a hitherto unknown activity that is currently opening up new directions in cancer research: They form hollow spherical structures that protect particularly sensitive parts of the genome, writes

Researchers believe that if these MYC structures are destroyed, cancer cells will die.

The findings were reported by a research team from the Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU, Bavaria, Germany) in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

Those involved in the research are convinced that the identification of these structures will change cancer research and that this important discovery will pave the way for completely new therapeutic strategies.

The hollow spherical structures protect sensitive areas in the DNA of cancer cells

The researchers found that when cells in the laboratory are kept under stress conditions similar to those of rapidly growing cancer cells, the MYC proteins in the cell’s nucleus rearrange themselves in key ways. They join together to form hollow spheres made up of thousands of MYC proteins.

The hollow spheres surround and protect particularly sensitive areas of the genome, the very places where two types of enzymes can collide: enzymes that read DNA to synthesize RNA and enzymes that duplicate DNA. Both can be thought of as two trains running on one track, on DNA. The hollow spheres thus prevent the two enzymes from colliding.

If the protective function of the protein spheres is turned off, enzyme collisions occur and as a result, more breaks occur in the DNA, which ultimately kills the cancer cells.

The search for effective specific drugs

“These findings revolutionize what we knew so far and tell us why MYC proteins are crucial for cancer cell growth,” said Martin Eilers, a professor at JMU who led the research team.

As a result of these discoveries, researchers want to develop drugs that specifically prevent the formation of these hollow spheres.

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