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Drugs could soon be developed that stop the spread of bowel cancer after researchers identified specific proteins crucial in the disease’s transformation into a more aggressive form, according to research.
Scientists at Cancer Research UK’s Beatson Institute, Glasgow, UK, and Cardiff University, UK, found the protein PTEN was critical in stopping the growth of tumours.
Looking at mice, they found that when the PTEN protein became faulty some tumours would turn aggressive.
The study, published in Nature Genetics, showed that if PTEN faults coincided with faults in another protein called APC, it triggered a third protein, kinase AKT, to stimulate tumours to become aggressive and spread.
Researchers then concludied that targeting AKT with specific drugs may help to combat the spread of the cancer.
Cancer is caused by uncontrolled cell growth. Identifying key proteins inside cells is a major step in developing a defence against the disease.
Professor Alan Clarke, from Cancer Research UK, said: “These findings are really interesting. We now know that the protein kinase AKT is a real lead for drug development to target aggressive intestinal cancer, which is something we didn’t properly appreciate before.
“We now have a model of how bowel cancer progresses. Previously scientists only had a very limited idea of how bowel tumours were believed to progress.
“This has given us a clearer picture of how bowel tumours actually grow and provides scientists with crucial information for drug design to slow down or stop the spread of the disease.”
Copyright Press Association 2008