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New drug may stop breast and lung cancer causing gene in its tracks

Researchers at the Michigan State University in the US showed that the drug, I-BET-762, is showing signs of significantly delaying the development of existing breast and lung cancers.

more lifestyle Updated: Mar 27, 2018 14:08 IST
Researchers showed that the drug shows signs of significantly delaying the development of existing breast and lung cancers.
Researchers showed that the drug shows signs of significantly delaying the development of existing breast and lung cancers.(Shutterstock)

Scientists are testing a promising drug that may stop a gene associated with obesity from triggering breast and lung cancer, as well as prevent them from growing.

Researchers at the Michigan State University in the US showed that the drug, I-BET-762, is showing signs of significantly delaying the development of existing breast and lung cancers by zeroing in on how a cancerous gene, called c-Myc, acts.

“I-BET-762 works by targeting DNA so that this gene can’t be expressed,” said Karen Liby, an associate professor at Michigan.

“It does this by inhibiting a number of important proteins - both in cancer and immune cells - ultimately reducing the amount of cancer cells in mice by 80 %,” said Liby, who led one of the two studies published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

These proteins are important because they play a critical role in what occurs between cells. For example, a particular protein, known as pSTAT3, can become activated in immune cells and stop them from doing their job, such as fighting off an invading cancer.

The offending protein also can become overproduced in cancer cells and act as a shield - ultimately protecting the tumour.

“In our study, the drug decreased pSTAT3 levels by 50 % in both types of cells,” Liby said.

The second study, led by Jamie Bernard, an assistant professor at Michigan, applied Liby’s findings to precancerous cells.

“We looked directly at the effect I-BET-762 had on human cells that could become tumorigenic, but were not quite yet,” Bernard said. “We found that the drug prevented more than 50 % of these cells from becoming cancerous,” he said.

The c-Myc gene is induced by visceral fat, which is found around the inner organs of the body as opposed to subcutaneous fat, which is located under the skin.

“Almost half a million of all new cancers have been linked to obesity,” Bernard said.

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