RADICAL CANCER TREATMENT
This week [Nature, VOL. 407 NO. 6802 DATED 21 SEPTEMBER 2000, pp. 390–395; News & Views] researchers report that inhibiting an enzyme, ‘superoxide dismutase’(or ‘SOD’) "may be a promising approach to the selective killing of cancer cells". Peng Huang of the M D Anderson Cancer Center, University of Texas, Houston, and colleagues found that a compound which blocks SOD activity kills human leukaemia cells, because SOD controls the levels of ‘reactive oxygen species’, but spares normal cells.
Reactive oxygen species (or 'ROS') are potentially dangerous by-products of cellular metabolism that have direct effects on cell development, growth and survival, on ageing and on the development of cancer. Increased metabolism appears to be a common feature distinguishing tumour cells from normal cells. ROS are generated by all aerobic organisms, apparently to regulate cell growth, but excessive amounts can oxidize and disable biological macromolecules required for cell function and survival.
"At the very least, even if SODs turn out not to be an ideal drug target, we can now be confident that it is reasonable to try to exploit the differences in the ways that normal and tumour cells control their reduction—oxidation status," comment John Cleveland and Michael Kastan of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee in an accompanying News and Views article.
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