Cells have a trash system that allows them to degrade, or get rid of, parts they no longer need. This system can be used to degrade enzymes that cancer cells need to survive. This strategy is used in a type of drug compound called a PROTAC. Scientists at St. Jude and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have made a PROTAC to kill neuroblastoma cells.
Neuroblastoma is an aggressive childhood cancer that arises from nerve cells. The compound targets an enzyme called EP300. The researchers showed that neuroblastoma needs EP300 to survive. Their EP300-specific PROTAC is called JQAD1.
“I think of PROTACs like going fishing. On the end of your fishing rod is a hook that attaches to your target, which for us is EP300,” said co-corresponding author Adam Durbin, MD, PhD, Division of Molecular Oncology. “JQAD1 hooks EP300 and reels it into the cell’s normal protein degradation system, basically dragging the enzyme over to the trash. Without EP300, the neuroblastoma cells die.”
The researchers expanded their study to over 900 cell lines, representing 36 different kinds of cancer. Their findings showed that EP300 alone is important in roughly one third of all human cancers.
Cancer Discovery published a report on this work.