|Scientists have discovered a "switch" that could possibly|
lower the doses of chemotherapy.
No matter what type of chemotherapy you attack a tumor with, many cancer cells resort to the same survival tactic: They start eating themselves. Scientists discovered the two proteins that pair up and switch on this process, known as autophagy. This gives a therapeutic avenue to target autophagy in tumors, and to make tumors more chemo-sensitive. You could target these proteins and the mechanism of this switch to block autophagy, which would allow for lower doses of chemotherapy while hopefully improving patient outcomes. Lower doses would mean milder side effects. The study results appear in the journal Molecular and Cellular Biology.
Using breast cancer tissue in the lab, they forced tumor cells to undergo autophagy by depriving them of oxygen and glucose. A comparison with a control group let them see that the two proteins hook up only when under attack. That's because stress makes Atg9 undergo a modification that enables 14-3-3 zeta to bind with it and switch the cancer cells to survival mode.
The researchers note that several medicines already exist that could block autophagy and make chemotherapy more effective. One of them is called chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug invented in 1934. In the event that this and other existing inhibitors don't cross-over safely or effectively, the study offers a blueprint for development of a drug specific to the task.