The oncogene MYC, which controls tumor growth in most types of cancer, has long been the object of study. A recent study by scientists from the University of Pennsylvania (USA), the results of which are published in the journal Nature Cell Biology, was another and, it seems, a successful attempt to find methods of influencing MYC.
MYC is a gene that regulates normal cell growth, but when it mutates, it triggers a chain reaction that causes uncontrolled multiplication of cells, which leads to malignant tumors.
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Blocking his work will impede the growth of the tumor and, therefore, will become an effective way to combat cancer.
With chemotherapy, doctors can stop cancer cell division and tumor growth. But since drugs limit cell division throughout the body, serious side effects of therapy appear.
Over the years, attempts have been made to find alternatives to chemotherapy.
And now a team of American scientists proposed a way to manipulate cancer cells, as a result of which degenerate cells destroy themselves.
"We needed to block the growth of the tumor in such a way that the cancer cells could not survive," said Konstantinos Kumenis, one of the leading authors of the study.
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To bring cancer cells to suicide, researchers blocked MYC bypass. Instead of directly turning off the gene, which was previously impossible, they "set their sights on ATF4 protein". It turns out that ATF4 includes the genes that MYC needs for growth, and also controls the rate at which cells produce specific proteins.
When ATF4 was able to be knocked out of the cells, it turned out that the tumor cells continued to accumulate these proteins and eventually died as a result of stress. This blocked tumor growth in mice with lymphomas and colorectal cancer.
That is, if ATF4 is absent, MYC cannot stimulate cell growth and division. Instead, the cell produces a large amount of protein until it dies.
"For some malignant neoplasms, it may be necessary to inhibit the activity of ATF4 for an optimal antitumor outcome," the paper says.
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The researchers tested the mechanism on a dozen mice. If the animals could not produce ATF4, the cancer did not develop further.
The discovered method works only in cells whose excessive growth is due to MYC, and it has been successfully tested on isolated cells of the breast, colon and human blood. But scientists still do not know whether it works in the same way in the human body as a whole.
"We are still studying the side effects of blocking ATF4 in cancer cells and are also working to make sure that this method does not cause any serious problems," said Feven Teimir, lead author of the study.
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