What Cancer and Corkscrews Have in Common

Inhibiting p97/VCP corkscrew activities could improve cancer therapies

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Our DNA is assaulted every day by everything from chemicals and toxins to various sources of radiation. Even low doses of x-radiation (X-rays) can break our DNA, which can lead to cancer if not repaired. Scientists are studying how all of this may impact cancer therapies.

The protein p87/NCP is hugely important in fixing DNA breaks. New research is investigating the reason behind this biological miracle, and has found that the protein acts like a corkscrew when fixing broken links in the DNA double helix.

"Be sure to ask about the side effects of any treatment you're receiving."

Research teams, headed by Kristijan Ramadan from the University of Zurich's Institute of Veterinary Pharmacology and Hemmo Meyer from the University of Duisburg-Essen, have discovered that the proteins that gather at the site of a DNA break are marked with the remnants of another protein called ubiquitin.

These remnants latch onto and bind to the p97/VCP protein, and the whole lot is removed like a cork. For the repair to be complete, though, it is crucial that the removal from the damage site be precise.

Researchers believe this entire operation could play an important role in cancer therapy. The thing is, p97/VCP also works to repair cancer cells that chemo and radiotherapy are trying to kill.

The thought is that blocking p97/VCP and keeping it from repairing cancer cell DNA with its corkscrew activities could improve the impact of chemotherapy and radiation.

Ramadan suggests that it may even be possible to reduce radiotherapy dosages, thus relieving patients of some of its unpleasant side effects.

Findings from this study are published in Nature Cell Biology.

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Review Date: 
November 9, 2011
Last Updated:
November 12, 2011