Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers abuzz over caffeine as 'cancer-cell killer'

Date:
April 18, 2013
Source:
University of Alberta
Summary:
Scientists are using caffeine and fruit flies to pinpoint genetic pathways that guide DNA repair in cancer cells.

Images showing the normal eye of a fruit fly (left), versus the disfigured eye of a fruit fly fed with a caffeine-supplemented diet. The fly had a genetic mutation that made it super-sensitive to the stimulant.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Alberta

Researchers from the University of Alberta are abuzz after using fruit flies to find new ways of taking advantage of caffeine's lethal effects on cancer cells -- results that could one day be used to advance cancer therapies for people.

Previous research has established that caffeine interferes with processes in cancer cells that control DNA repair, a finding that has generated interest in using the stimulant as a chemotherapy treatment. But given the toxic nature of caffeine at high doses, researchers from the faculties of medicine and dentistry and science instead opted to use it to identify genes and pathways responsible for DNA repair.

"The problem in using caffeine directly is that the levels you would need to completely inhibit the pathway involved in this DNA repair process would kill you," said Shelagh Campbell, co-principal investigator. "We've come at it from a different angle to find ways to take advantage of this caffeine sensitivity."

Lead authors Ran Zhuo and Xiao Li, both PhD candidates, found that fruit flies with a mutant gene called melanoma antigen gene, or MAGE, appeared normal when fed a regular diet but died when fed food supplemented with caffeine.

On closer inspection, the researchers found that the mutant flies' cells were super-sensitive to caffeine, with the drug triggering "cell suicide" called apoptosis. Flies fed the caffeine-laden diet developed grossly disfigured eyes.

Through this work, the research team identified three genes responsible for a multi-protein complex, called SMC5/SMC6/MAGE, which regulates DNA repair and the control of cell division. Neither process works properly in cancer cells.

Co-principal investigator Rachel Wevrick explains that this finding is significant because it means that scientists one day could be able to take advantage of cancer-cell sensitivity to caffeine by developing targeted treatments for cancers with specific genetic changes. Their results were published in the March issue of the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One.

"Unless you actually know what it is those proteins are doing in the first place to make a cell a cancer cell instead of a normal cell, it's hard to know what to do with that information," she says. "You need to know which genes and proteins are the really bad actors, how these proteins work and which of them work in a pathway you know something about where you can actually tailor a treatment around that information."

Along with Wevrick and Campbell as lead investigators, the project also included biological sciences professor Kirst King-Jones and medical geneticist Sarah Hughes. It's the type of research-intensive environment that benefits students who gain experience working with peers as part of a team, Wevrick says.

"The U of A has a reputation for co-operation, and that's not the case everywhere. People here are very willing to share their results and their successes, and work together."

The research was funded by the Cancer Research Society, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Xiao Li, Ran Zhuo, Stanley Tiong, Francesca Di Cara, Kirst King-Jones, Sarah C. Hughes, Shelagh D. Campbell, Rachel Wevrick. The Smc5/Smc6/MAGE Complex Confers Resistance to Caffeine and Genotoxic Stress in Drosophila melanogaster. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (3): e59866 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059866

Cite This Page:

University of Alberta. "Researchers abuzz over caffeine as 'cancer-cell killer'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418100150.htm>.
University of Alberta. (2013, April 18). Researchers abuzz over caffeine as 'cancer-cell killer'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418100150.htm
University of Alberta. "Researchers abuzz over caffeine as 'cancer-cell killer'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418100150.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nine-Month-Old Baby Can't Open His Mouth

Nine-Month-Old Baby Can't Open His Mouth

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2014) Nine-month-old Wyatt Scott was born with a rare disorder called congenital trismus, which prevents him from opening his mouth. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) In a potential breakthrough for future obesity treatments, scientists have used MRI scans to pinpoint brown fat in a living adult for the first time. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) A new report shows rates of two foodborne infections increased in the U.S. in recent years, while salmonella actually dropped 9 percent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The breakthrough could mean a cure for some serious diseases and even the possibility of human cloning, but it's all still a way off. 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:
from the past week

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