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Researchers discover what powers enzyme that helps cancer grow

By
Stephen Feller
Although researchers have long been aware of an enzyme that helps cancer cells to grow, they have just identified a protein that assists it and may be able to find a way to prevent the runaway growth of tumors by blocking the helper protein. Photo by Tatiana Shepeleva/Shutterstock
Although researchers have long been aware of an enzyme that helps cancer cells to grow, they have just identified a protein that assists it and may be able to find a way to prevent the runaway growth of tumors by blocking the helper protein. Photo by Tatiana Shepeleva/Shutterstock

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, June 29 (UPI) -- Researchers have discovered the protein that allows the enzyme ADAM17 to remove molecules from the surface of cancer cells, helping them to grow.

The protein PACS-2 helps ADAM17 transport into and out of the cell. However, if the protein is blocked, the enzyme returns to the cell surface less often, meaning it can't help cells to grow.

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Scientists have long been thwarted at trying to develop drugs that would restrict ADAM17 from removing molecules and helping cancer cells to grow, researchers said.

"There have been attempts at developing a pill to inhibit ADAM17, only the patients became ill due to side effects, because other, similar enzymes were also affected," Sarah Dombernowsky, of the University of Copenhagen, said in a press release. "But if you inhibit PACS-2, you can, in principle, obstruct only ADAM17, which would enable us to inhibit the growth of the cancer tumor."

Researchers at the university are experimenting with mice to see if cancer growth slows down as a result of blocking PACS-2 with the hope their work will become a usable cancer treatment.

The study is published in Nature Communications.

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