Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Skin Cancer: Designer Molecule Tackles Malignant Cells By Two Completely Different Routes

Date:
November 4, 2008
Source:
University of Bonn
Summary:
By playing it safe and using a two-pronged attack, a novel designer molecule fights malignant melanoma. The substance is similar to components of viruses and in this way alerts the immune system. The body's own defenses are also strengthened against cancer cells in this process. At the same time, the novel molecule also puts pressure on the tumor in a different way. It switches off a specific gene in the malignant cells, thus driving them to suicide. With mice suffering from cancer, the researchers have thus been able to fight metastases in the lung.

By playing it safe and using a two-pronged attack, a novel designer molecule fights malignant melanoma. It was created and tested by an international team of researchers led by the University of Bonn. On the one hand, the substance is similar to components of viruses and in this way alerts the immune system. The body's own defences are also strengthened against cancer cells in this process.

Related Articles


At the same time, the novel molecule also puts pressure on the tumour in a different way. It switches off a specific gene in the malignant cells, thus driving them to suicide. With mice suffering from cancer, the researchers have thus been able to fight metastases in the lung.

For their research project, the scientists drew on the latest insights into biology's box of tricks. A close relative of the nuclear DNA, known as RNA, served them as therapy. It has only been known for a few years that small RNA molecules can basically be used to target certain genes and switch them off. This effect is called RNA interference; the Americans Craig Mellow and Andrew Fire were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2006 for its discovery.

'We used this method in order to drive the tumour cells to suicide,' the Bonn dermatology researcher Professor Thomas Tόting explains. Every single body cell is equipped with a corresponding suicide programme. It is activated, for example, if the cell becomes malignant. It dies before it can do any more harm. 'But in tumours a gene is active that suppresses this suicide programme,' Professor Tόting, who is head of the Experimental Dermatology Laboratory, explains. 'We have pinpointed this gene and switched it off by using RNA interference.'

At the same time the researchers also crept up on cancer by another route: 'We basically "disguised" our RNA,' Professor Gunther Hartmann, director of the Institute of Clinical Chemistry and Pharmacology says. 'That is why the immune system took it for the genetic makeup of a virus.' Many viruses actually do use RNA to store information. So if the body discovers RNA fragments which it takes to be the genetic makeup of a virus, it mounts an attack on them. By means of this trick the body's defences were prompted to tackle the tumour cells far more aggressively than normal.

RNA is also present in the body's own cells. For a long time it was not known how the immune system distinguishes between 'harmful' and 'harmless' RNA. Only two years ago, Professor Hartmann was able to shed light on the problem in a sensational article in the journal 'Science'. The scientists used this knowledge in order to modify the RNA substance in such a way that it was able to alert the immune system.

'The beauty of this method is that we can attack the cancer with one designer molecule along two completely different routes,' Professor Hartmann says. 'This way the tumour is deprived of opportunities of sidestepping the attack that make successful therapy so difficult in other cases.' Initial experiments in mouse models have shown that growth of metastases in the lungs is inhibited significantly by the new molecule. The therapy even led to the secondary tumours becoming smaller or even disappearing entirely.

Despite this, the research team warns against excessive optimism: 'What works in mice does not necessarily prove successful in humans as well,' Professor Tόting warns. 'Apart from that, many issues need to be addressed before a trial with cancer patients can even be thought of.' Still, the approach appears very promising, especially as the therapeutic RNA molecule can be easily customised to suit different kinds of cancer.

An article on this research is published in Nature Medicine's November issue (doi: 10.1038/nm.1887).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bonn. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Bonn. "Skin Cancer: Designer Molecule Tackles Malignant Cells By Two Completely Different Routes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081102134635.htm>.
University of Bonn. (2008, November 4). Skin Cancer: Designer Molecule Tackles Malignant Cells By Two Completely Different Routes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081102134635.htm
University of Bonn. "Skin Cancer: Designer Molecule Tackles Malignant Cells By Two Completely Different Routes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081102134635.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Fears Keep Guinea Hospitals Empty

Ebola Fears Keep Guinea Hospitals Empty

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) — Fears of Ebola are keeping doctors and patients alike away from hospitals in the West African nation of Guinea. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Orthodontist Mom Jennifer Salzer on the Best Time for Braces

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) — Is your child ready? Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

U.S. Issues Ebola Travel Restrictions, Are Visa Bans Next?

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) — Now that the U.S. is restricting travel from West Africa, some are dropping questions about a travel ban and instead asking about visa bans. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
More People Diagnosed With TB In 2013, But There's Good News

More People Diagnosed With TB In 2013, But There's Good News

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) — The World Health Organizations says TB numbers rose in 2013, but it's partly due to better detection and more survivors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins