Researchers studying cancers in mice have identified a protein that is crucial for tumour survival, raising the prospect that new cancer therapies might halt tumours in their tracks by targeting this molecule.
The protein - an enzyme called endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) - is part of a complex interplay of interacting proteins that initiate and maintain the growth of tumour cells, report Christopher Counter and colleagues in Nature. Although the initiation of tumours involves a host of different proteins activated by the well known cancer gene Ras, tumour maintenance requires the portion of the Ras pathway involving eNOS.
Blocking the activation of eNOS inhibits the formation and maintenance of cancers in mice, the researchers show. Thus, targeting this process, as well as inhibiting Ras, could offer a successful strategy for new drugs to tackle cancer, they suggest.
Christopher Counter (Duke University Medical Centre, Durham, NC, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature press release.
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