“Spider Web” of Proteins Could Lead to Novel Therapies for Mesothelioma


Label: Mesothelioma

Researchers spend much of their time trying to find that one biomarker or protein to target to make a difference in the way lung cancer, mesothelioma and other cancers are treated. Proteins can drive many cancers, and finding a way to suppress them can make a difference for many patients. Now, researchers believe they have found a “vast spider web” of interactions between proteins that will lead to a new way to treat cancers.

According to a Feb. 16 press release from Emory University, a team of researchers looked closely at tumor suppressor genes that are known to escape drugs, leading the medical research field to call them “undruggable.” It was when looking at these, that the team determined in a set of 83 lung cancer-related proteins there were more than 260 interactions that were not known previously. Through a series of additional tests, they found that nearly 80 percent of the interactions were reliable.

“Our approach is to place tumor suppressors in the context of a network of cancer-associated proteins and link tumor suppressors to drugs through a known drug target protein,” says senior author Haian Fu, PhD. “In this way, changes in a tumor suppressor may be linked with the response of the target to the connected drug.”

The team illustrated the benefit of the interaction web by pinpointing one undruggable protein, Myc. They were able to connect that protein through two proteins, N3D3 and Brd4, along the web, finding that inhibitors have been developed for the Brd4 protein. This allows them to build a pathway, Brd4-NSD3-Myc, as a potential anti-cancer drug target.

Pleural mesothelioma is a rare, serious cancer affecting the lining of the lungs that occurs in individuals exposed to airborne asbestos fibers. Although pleural mesothelioma is distinguished by a large mass of interlocked tumors that blend in with healthy tissue, lung cancer is characterized by more distinct, individual tumors. Despite the differences, any research leading to new treatment options for lung cancer brings hope to all of the mesothelioma community.

Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. The same number succumb to the incurable cancer.

The results can be found in the Feb. 16 issue of Nature Communications.

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