Improved cancer drugs in the offing

Scientists have unveiled the inner workings of a group of proteins that help to switch critical genes on and off during blood-cell production, a finding that could lead to the development of new and improved cancer drugs.

One of the proteins involved is linked to breast cancer, which is the most common form of cancer for women and kills more than half a million women globally each year. Existing breast cancer treatments do not target this protein specifically, researchers said.

Daniel Ryan from The Australian National University (ANU) said the study could help explain how existing breast-cancer drugs work inside human cells. “There are treatments for breast cancer which are in use today that are effective but we still do not know how they work,” said Ryan.

“This research shines a light on an important set of proteins that could be targeted by these drugs and superior treatments yet to be developed,” he said.

The research seeks to understand the mechanisms for gene regulation, particularly in relation to diseases such as cancer and blood disorders.

Researchers described how a special group of proteins form into an enzyme that turns genes on and off to produce essential elements such as blood cells and stem cells.

The ongoing research will help scientists advance their knowledge of how genes are regulated. It also may lead to the development of new and improved cancer drugs.