Researchers in Germany have developed a new drug that can act like a “shredder” for proteins implicated in causing cancer. In tests on lab-grown cancer cells, the drug worked to kill the tumors, suggesting a new pathway to a treatment for the disease.
In higher-than-usual amounts, some proteins have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, and Aurora-A kinase (or just Aurora) has long been known to be among them. This protein is overexpressed in some breast and prostate cancers, leukemias and neuroblastomas, among others.
Inhibiting these “tumorigenic” proteins is one avenue of cancer treatment that scientists are exploring. But usually drugs just shut down the proteins without destroying them, which helps fight the tumor but doesn’t stop the proteins’ functions entirely. Unfortunately, these kinds of drugs haven’t yet proven too effective in tests.
“Aurora-A kinase is present in much higher concentrations in many cancer tissues than in healthy tissue and it also plays a key role in prostate cancer,” says Stefan Knapp, an author of the study. “Blocking the activity of Aurora-A kinase alone seems not a promising approach as none of the many clinically tested drug candidates has achieved clinical approval.”