By investigating a single molecule that influences cell growth, a research group in the Purdue Cancer Center, including Brian S. Henriksen, has gained new insight into the chain of events that make some cancer cells divide uncontrollably - insight that may eventually lead to a way to break that chain, stopping cancer in its tracks. The molecule, known as Icmt, has a critical role in the development of Ras, an ordinarily beneficial protein that tells a cell to divide. The research group has determined how to inhibit Icmt's influence on Ras, without which the protein cannot develop effectively into an instigator of cell growth.
"A tumor can be seen as cells that forget to stop dividing, and misdeveloped Ras is responsible for some instances of uncontrolled growth," said Henriksen, a graduate student in medicinal chemistry and medical pharmacology in Purdue's School of Pharmacy. "When Ras develops a mutation, it does its job incorrectly, and it becomes a hazard to the body. Our work with Icmt might lead to therapies that could stop errant Ras from causing tumors to progress."
The research was conducted by an interdisciplinary team from two Purdue departments. Co-directing the team are Christine A. Hrycyna, Walther Assistant Professor in the School of Science's chemistry department and Richard A. Gibbs, associate professor in the School of Pharmacy's medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology department. Jessica L. Anderson (chemistry) and Henriksen are the principal graduate students involved in the project.
Henriksen will present the group's results at 6 p.m. Sunday (3/28) at the 227th national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, Calif.