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A breakthrough advance in cancer treatment may have been signalled by research on the enzyme protein kinase B (PKB).
Over-activation of this molecule, which is an important regulator of cell survival and proliferation, is a major driving force behind many cancers.
At present there are no drugs available to switch off out-of-control PKB. But British scientists have now created a model that has exposed a hidden “cavity” in its structure.
More importantly, the Cancer Research UK team has found that inhibitor molecules can be bound to this “Achilles’ heel” that can shut down PKB’s cancer-causing activities.
Researcher Dr Lesley Walker said: “Now we know its full structure, the coast is clear to develop new therapies that will help in our fight to beat cancer.”
Allosteric drugs that cause proteins to change shape are not safe for humans, but scientists hope that now the mechanism is known, new “broad spectrum” drugs can be developed.
The Cancer Research team created the model by using a laboratory technique known as two-photon fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (Flim) alongside standard biochemical techniques.
Copyright Press Association 2009