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Taming the chaotic protein that fuels cancers

MYC is a protein that it is claimed is responsible for making the majority of human cancer cases worse.

white cells attacking cancer - CREDIT- Science Photo Library f0234989.jpg

Researchers from the US have now found a way to rein it in, which they state offers hope for a new era of treatments. 

In healthy cells, MYC helps guide the process of transcription, in which genetic information is converted from DNA into RNA and, eventually, into proteins.

“Normally, MYC’s activity is strictly controlled. In cancer cells, it becomes hyperactive, and is not regulated properly,” said UC Riverside Associate Professor of Chemistry Min Xue.

“MYC is less like food for cancer cells and more like a steroid that promotes cancer’s rapid growth. That is why MYC is a culprit in 75% of all human cancer cases.”

A new paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, on which Xue is the senior author, describes a peptide compound that binds to MYC and suppresses activity.

The team describes a new peptide that binds directly to MYC with what is called submicromolar affinity, which is getting closer to the strength of an antibody.

In other words, it is a very strong and specific interaction.

“We improved the binding performance of this peptide over previous versions by two orders of magnitude,” Xue said. “This makes it closer to our drug development goals.”

Once the peptide is in the cell, it will bind to MYC, changing MYC’s physical properties and preventing it from performing transcription activities.

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Image credit | Science Photo Library

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