Canadian research breakthrough holds promise for development of effective cancer therapies

Cancer therapyMontreal, September 2, 2009 – Researchers Dr. Marc Therrien at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) of the Université de Montréal, and Dr. Frank Sicheri, at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, have discovered a new target that may be instrumental in the development of new, more effective cancer therapies.

A recent article co-authored by Drs. Therrien and Sicheri and published in the leading scientific journal Nature sheds new light on the activation mechanism of the RAF protein kinase which, when mutated, is responsible for more than 25 per cent of cancers. Understanding this mechanism may lead to novel anti-cancer agents designed to minimize the toxic side effects caused by chemotherapy.

The RAF family of kinases regulates various cellular processes including cell growth, differentiation and survival. The Therrien-Sicheri team is the first to show that the dimerization, or combination, of two RAF proteins is essential to its activation. Inhibiting the dimerization of RAF may therefore block its activation, thus stopping cancer cells from growing. The study exposes not only the activation mechanism of RAF, but potentially the mechanisms that control other protein kinases, a large number of which are linked to cancer and other diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and neurodegeneration.

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