A new family of potential anti-cancer drugs is quietly causing excitement in the pharmaceutical industry as early data from clinical trials shows promising responses in patients, according to an article scheduled for the Feb. 26 issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the ACS' weekly newsmagazine.
In the article, C&EN associate editor Lisa Jarvis explains that the new compounds may circumvent the long-standing problem of drug resistance, in which anti-cancer drugs gradually loose their effectiveness.
The drugs focus on a new target in the war against cancer — a substance called heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90). Heat shock proteins are most active when the cell is exposed to elevated temperatures, infection, inflammation, toxins and other stresses that can cause a protein to unfold. Like housekeepers, heat shock proteins help those proteins — including mutated, cancer-causing proteins — get back into their proper shape.
When Hsp90's effects are blocked in cancer cells, those cancer-causing proteins cannot survive, potentially stopping the disease in its track. When Hsp90's effects are blocked in cancer cells, damaged proteins accumulate, and the cell dies. Jarvis explains that cancer cells, with their horribly mutated proteins, seem to be especially dependent on Hsp90, and more vulnerable than other body cells when Hsp90's effects are blocked.
The article describes how new discoveries have changed heat shock proteins from laboratory curiosities into some of today's most promising targets for developing new drugs.
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