A breast cancer study may help develop new treatments, with the identification of a molecule that blocks a breast cancer protein, slowing down spreading of cancer cells. Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute made the breakthrough.
The research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and The University of Cambridge, and published in Nature Chemistry.
They found thiostrepton – a naturally-occurring cancer-protector molecule – ‘clamps’ a cancer-causing protein called FOXM1, preventing it from working. It's hope this research could be used to develop treatments for early stage breast cancer.
Around 48,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and around 12,100 UK women die from the disease.
Lead author, Professor Shankar Balasubramanian, based at Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute, said: “Before this research we weren’t aware of any natural product which could directly target a protein that controls gene activity. Yet intriguingly a molecule in bacteria – which also has strong antibiotic effects – does this very well, switching off cancer-causing genes in breast cancer cells.
“This naturally-occurring molecule doesn’t have all the right properties to be used as a breast cancer treatment itself. But this exciting discovery paves the way for the design of more potent and selective drugs based on the structure of thiostrepton to block the FOXM1 protein.”