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A key to killing treatment-resistant cancers may have been found in the a technique known as RNA interference, which “knocks out” particular proteins.
One such, the “kinase” enzyme STK33, is seen by scientists as a particularly promising target since it appears to be necessary for the survival of many cancer tumours.
Says Dr Gary Gilliland at Harvard Medical School in Boston: “The beauty of the strategy is that it would take only 50% to 70% knockdown of STK33 to kill a cancer cell. It relies on a unique frailty of the cancer cell that normal cells don’t have.”
This avenue of research focuses on defects in the KRAS gene, which is linked to notoriously difficult-to-treat pancreatic and lung cancers and leukaemia.
Researchers are using RNA interference to study normal, healthy genes that cancers rely on for their survival. The effect of 1,000 human genes on eight cancer-cell lines are being investigated.
By “knocking out” proteins, it is possible to determine their effects by using small bits of genetic material to block protein-making machinery.
Copyright Press Association 2009