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Researchers shed light on mechanism of action used by anti-cancer drug

RICHMOND, Va. (June 11, 2007) Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center researchers have uncovered a new mechanism of action of the anti-cancer drug sorafenib, which could stimulate the development of novel regimens in which it is combined with other molecularly targeted agents for patients with blood cancers and solid tumors.

In the new study, led by Steven Grant, M.D., Masseys associate director for translational research and co-leader of the cancer centers cancer cell biology program, VCU researchers identified a mechanism by which sorafenib inhibits protein translation, and which may be involved in reducing expression of pro-survival factors, such as Mcl-1, and other proteins. The findings were published online in the journal Molecular and Cellular Biology on June 4.

According to Grant, sorafenib, or Nexavar which is manufactured by Bayer Pharmaceuticals, has recently been approved for the treatment of patients with renal cell cancer, the most common form of kidney cancer in adults. It was originally developed as an inhibitor of the oncogene, Raf, which is frequently mutated in numerous cancers, including leukemia. Oncogenes are typically responsible for promoting tumor growth.

Previous findings by Grants team, reported in the Journal of Biologic Chemistry, showed that in human leukemia cells, sorafenib lethality was less a consequence of Raf inhibition, but rather reflected interference with the synthesis of Mcl-1. They found that sorafenib interfered with Mcl-1 translation, a process in which proteins are synthesized from their constituent amino acids. However, the mechanism by which protein translation was inhibited by sorafenib remained largely unknown.

In the present work, Grant and his team found that in human leukemia cells, sorafenib induces a process known as endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, which results from accumulation of misfolded proteins in the ER. The ER is a subcellular structure which
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Contact: Sathya Achia-Abraham
sbachia@vcu.edu
804-827-0890
Virginia Commonwealth University
11-Jun-2007


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