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Scientists discover key protein in fight against cancer

10 January, 2014

ISLAMABAD: A new discovery by a team of scientists in Australia has shown a promising way to fight cancer.

A protein called MYC drives many cancers, including leukaemias and lymphomas, to grow and spread abnormally by causing changes in cells.

A team led by Dr Gemma Kelly, Dr Marco Herold and Professor Andreas Strasser from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Australia, discovered that high levels of MYC in lymphomas render them impossible to survive for long without a protein called MCL-1 which makes cells long-lived, according to reports.

"We discovered that lymphoma cells with high levels of MYC can be killed by disabling a protein called MCL-1. Excitingly, when compared with healthy cells, the lymphoma cells were considerably more sensitive to a reduction in MCL-1 function", said Dr Kelly. "This suggests that in the future medicines that block MCL-1 could be effective in treating cancers expressing high levels of MYC with tolerable side-effects on the body's normal cells."

"Anti-cancer agents that target the protein BCL-2, which is closely related to MCL-1, are already showing promise in clinical trials, including some held in Melbourne. We are hopeful that inhibitors of MCL-1 will soon become available for clinical testing. We will be very interested in determining whether these compounds could be used to treat MYC-driven cancers," Professor Strasser said.

The research is published in the journal Genes & Development.

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