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Technique kills cancerous cells, leaves healthy cells intact

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Compound 13-D was found to have the strongest cancer-killing effect and the only one to induce a cysteine protease known as caspase-3 as well as blebbing (a pinching off of the cellular membrane) and cell shrinkage, all of which are hallmarks of apoptosis.

"Once we had a compound that killed by apoptosis, we did the key experiment to see if the compound induced cell death selectively, choosing cancerous cells over non-cancerous white blood cells," Hergenrother said. "Compound 13-D showed virtually no toxicity toward the actively dividing T-cells while almost completely killing the lymphoma and leukemia cells."

Such results are desirable, because many current human therapeutic approaches result in undesired side effects such as anemia and major gastrointestinal problems.

Additionally, Hergenrother said, if the biological pathways can be isolated it may be possible to manufacture compounds that not only encourage apoptosis in cancer cells but also inhibit it in healthy cells, a potential benefit to sufferers of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases in which many cells die off unnecessarily.


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Contact: Jim Barlow, Life Sciences Editor
jebarlow@uiuc.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
1-Dec-2003


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