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A group of chemicals that act as guardians for an anticancer gene could lead to new ways of treating the disease, scientists have said.
The chemical shield p53 fights cancer by triggering DNA repair or the death of damaged cells but in most patients with the disease it has been suppressed or switched off.
A new family of compounds, known as tenovins, block the action of proteins that help to destroy p53.
Dr Sonia Lain, from the University of Dundee, said: “Our findings indicate that tenovins have the potential to stop tumours. We found that tenovins work by inhibiting enzymes called sirtuins, which clip off a crucial chemical group from p53, leading to its destruction.
“We hope that targeting sirtuins with drugs could treat many different cancers in the future.”
The team identified tenovins by observing how cells responded to around 30,000 different drugs.
Co-author, Dr Nick Westwood from the School of Chemistry at the University of St Andrews, said: “This programme has successfully combined skills in cell and cancer biology, biochemistry, genetics and chemistry to deliver compounds of genuine therapeutic interest.”
The research, published in the journal Cancer Cell, was funded by Cancer Research UK.
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