Discovery improves chances of kidney cancer treatment

December 24th, 2008 - 1:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 24 (IANS) Kidney cancer does not show any symptoms until it has spread to other organs, when it is also virtually beyond the pale of treatment. Newer chemotherapies show great promise for extending survival during later stages, but they can also be highly toxic.

In one of the first discoveries of its kind, University of California Davis (UCD) Cancer Centre researchers have identified ways to block a cancer gene’s own repair mechanism and, in so doing, help make chemotherapy for kidney cancer more effective and better tolerated.

“Cancer cells are notorious in their ability to rapidly create copies of themselves. While the latest medications slow down that process, they do not tend to be curative and have many side effects,” said Robert Weiss, a UCD professor of nephrology.

Newer medications work by destabilising cancer cells at the DNA level, which reduces their ability to replicate. Knowing that the p21 gene has an important role in restoring cancer cell DNA and potentially circumventing the benefits of those treatments, Weiss sought to identify compounds that could interrupt this pathway, said an UCD statement.

The results were published in the current issue of Cancer Biology and Therapy.

The team tested thousands of compounds and 12 were found to bind to the recombinant protein p21. Additional tests showed that three of those compounds decreased p21 expression, blocking kidney cancer cells’ ability to mend and making them more responsive to DNA-damaging treatments.

“The results are very exciting, especially given how difficult kidney cancer has so far been to treat,” Weiss said.

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