The Cancer Research UK team said the development of new drugs that specifically target this trigger could improve the effectiveness of cancer treatments designed to destroy cancer cells at DNA level, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
By singling out the protein that allows cancer cells to repair DNA damage caused by chemotherapy drugs, scientists may be able to prevent cancer relapse as well as boost the effectiveness of current treatments.
Study leader Dr Helen Walden, based at Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute, said: “Our team has determined the structure of the engine in the cell’s maintenance pack that if switched off would make cells much more responsive to chemotherapy.
“We have taken the first full atomic snapshot of a protein in this cell repair pathway, right at the very heart of the route by which cancer cells defend themselves against treatments which are intended to destroy them.
“By blocking this repair ‘ignition switch’, it may be possible to boost traditional treatments. As such, it’s a drug target.”
Copyright Press Association 2010
Cancer Research UK