Scientists have developed a tool that can be used for diagnostic imaging and targeted therapy of tumors. The research, reported in the July issue of Nature Chemical Biology, shows that a small protein can bind to the surface of leukemia cells and home in on the tumors. The researchers also suggest that the protein could potentially help to deliver drugs to treat the tumor.
The migration or metastasis of tumor cells requires adhesive connections between receptors on the surface of cells and components of the matrix that makes up the extracellular environment. Kit Lam and colleagues used a unique strategy to find peptides based on sequences involved in these connections. One of the lead compounds, 2A could bind to the surface of leukemia cells that express a specific cell surface receptor involved in migration, integrin alpha4beta1. 2A could also mark tumor cells within mice, but ignored normal surrounding cells. The remarkable specificity of 2A for tumor cells that express alpha4beta1 makes it useful for imaging tumors.
2A was designed to be highly stable and so can also be used to deliver a toxic compound to tumors.
Kit Lam, (University of California Davis, Sacramento, CA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Chemical Biology press release.
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