Researchers identify protein that kills cancer cells

St. Louis, Jan. 17, 2003 Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that a protein called cytidine uridine guanosine binding protein-2 (CUGBP2) can destroy several different types of cancer cells. When the team inserted the protein into cultured tumor cells, more than 70 percent self-destructed.

The study appears in the Jan. 17 issue of the journal Molecular Cell. The researchers found that CUGBP2 helps regulate production of cyclooxygenase-2, (COX-2), which is better known as a key culprit in arthritis.

"The gene that produces COX-2 is turned on very early in cancer, so there has been a lot of research to see whether interfering with it might be an effective therapy," says principal investigator Shrikant Anant, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology and research member of the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

In rheumatoid arthritis, COX-2 converts arachidonic acid in the body into prostaglandins. In cancer cells, COX-2 levels also rise and trigger production of prostaglandins. The prostaglandins bind to tumor cells and help turn on genes involved in the generation of new blood vessels, helping feed the cells' rapid growth.

In this study, Anant and colleagues looked at events early in the development of tumors. In any cell's life, there is a normal cycle of replication and division. First, a close copy of DNA, called RNA is made, and that RNA, in turn is translated into proteins. These proteins have to be made at precisely the right time in order for the cycle to work correctly. It is thought that tight regulation of important proteins is critical, and interfering with the strict regulation of these proteins even by a few minutes can lead to serious problems such as cancer.

That precise timing is controlled by the activity of messenger RNA (mRNA). Anant and colleagues explored

Contact: Jim Dryden
Washington University School of Medicine

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