A protein ‘gone rogue’ may lead to new cancer treatments

Memphis, Tennessee, May 16, 2018

Janet Zheng, PhD; Cristina Guibao; Tudor Moldoveanu PhD; and Grace Royappa, PhD

From left: Janet Zheng, PhD; Cristina Guibao; Tudor Moldoveanu, PhD; and Grace Royappa, PhD

Just as a lone wolf leaves the pack to operate on its own, a key protein named BOK goes rogue to trigger cell suicide, or apoptosis.

Tudor Moldoveanu, PhD, of St. Jude Structural Biology, and his colleagues discovered how that happens. Their findings offer the potential for new drugs to more selectively kill cancer cells.

Usually, our bodies use a process called apoptosis to get rid of cells that are no longer needed or faulty, such as cancer cells. But cancers mutate to survive by switching off apoptosis. The goal of many cancer drug treatments is to switch on apoptosis in cancer cells.

The findings pave the way for a new approach to anti-cancer drugs.

“This is exciting, because it opens the way to develop new drugs that would stabilize BOK and enable it to effectively trigger apoptosis in cancer cells,” Moldoveanu said.

A report on this study appeared in the journal Cell Reports.

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