Protein ‘map’ could lead to new cancer drugs

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Scientists at the University of York have discovered a protein ‘map’ which it is hoped could lead to the creation of new cancer drugs.

The team are part of a team of researchers which has gained fresh insights into how a disease-causing enzyme makes changes to proteins and how it can be stopped.

Scientists at York Structural Biology Laboratory in the university’s Department of Chemistry hope their findings will help them to design drugs that could target the enzyme, known as N-myristoyltransferase (NMT) and potentially lead to new treatments for cancer and inflammatory conditions.

Working with colleagues at Imperial College, London, they have already identified a molecule that blocks NMT’s activity.

Professor Tony Wilkinson, of York Structural Biology Laboratory, said: “This is a wonderful example of the power of chemical biology - using chemistry to unravel biological problems and open up new avenues to therapy in human disease.”

NMT makes irreversible changes to proteins and is known to be involved in a range of diseases including cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.”

In a study published in the journal, Nature Communications, the researchers used living human cancer cells to identify more than 100 proteins that NMT modifies.

The scientists mapped all the proteins and established a small drug-like molecule can block the activity of NMT as well as inhibiting its ability to modify each of these proteins, suggesting a potential new way to treat cancer.