Suicide is the regular mode of cell death. When cells reach the end of their useful life, internal mechanisms kick in and the cell automatically perishes, a process known as apoptosis. But in cancer cells this mechanism has often been genetically disabled or otherwise broken, allowing tumors to proliferate. Now researchers have found a way to reactivate programmed cell death and thereby treat cancer. In preparation for apoptosis, a chain of chemical events takes place in the cell. Near the end, the chemical procaspase-3 is activated. This chemical then transforms into caspase-3–an executioner enzyme that terminates the cell.
Chemist Paul Hergenrother of the University of Illinois and an international team of colleagues realized that a compound that activated procaspase-3 might be effective in killing cancer, because many tumors show elevated levels of procaspase despite their inability to complete apoptosis.
After screening 20,500 related molecules for this activation ability, the researchers narrowed it down to four likely candidates. Of these, only one showed an increasingly strong effect with increased doses: newly named procaspase activating compound, or PAC-1. “We have identified a small, synthetic compound that directly activates procaspase-3 and induces apoptosis,” Hergenrother says. “By bypassing the broken pathway, we can use the cells’ own machinery to destroy them.” – sciam
Brilliant! Quick, get the full article before the lab burns down and the notes disappear. 😉 A cure for all cancers in our lifetime?