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Stopping the Runaway Car of Cancer

Dr Trey Westbrook and study leader Tiffany Hsu (source)

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have made an exciting discovery: inhibiting the spliceosome in the MYC gene can affect the formation and growth of cancer cells. This offers huge potential in the field of treatment and research, and hope for those facing more aggressive cancers.

The Baylor researchers compare cancer to “a runaway car with the gas pedal stuck to the floor, hurling out of control.” It’s an accurate comparison, especially when considering cancers driven by the MYC gene. A way to inhibit this gene has yet to be found, so patients suffering from the 30% of cancers driven by it – such as Burkitt Lymphoma and triple negative breast cancer – often lack good treatment options.

If the “gas pedal” is broken, then it’s time to tackle the engine. According to the paper by Hsu et al, the MYC gene is overexpressed or hyperactive in most cancer drivers and is strongly resistant to inhibition. However, the spliceosome, a complex molecular machine that enables cancer cells to form properly, is crucial to the operation of the MYC gene. Inhibiting the spliceosome leads to defects in the cancer cells that are produced. The cells are less able to cause tumour formation and metastasis, making the cancers simpler to treat.

The data produced so far has come from in vivo studies of breast cancers, specifically those dependent on MYC. Hsu et al suggest that “components of the spliceosome may be therapeutic entry points” in these cancers; exploiting the vulnerability caused by the MYC gene could offer the key to treatment.

Of course, like many possible treatments, this potential therapy is still in the early stages. Years of work will need to go into finding out if this is an effective treatment method before it can even be advanced to the clinical stage.

This reality emphasises the need for good data in the preclinical stage, something the team behind ActualHCA feels very strongly about. While this technology has not yet been implemented far beyond drug discovery, attributes like identity retention mean ActualHCA has considerable potential in a range of fields.

To read the paper by Hsu et al in Nature magazine, click here. If you would like to read the story from Baylor College of Medicine, click here. To learn more about ActualHCA, get in touch today.