Lighting the Way to New Cancer Therapies

Transcription factor activity now easier to detect with new technology

(RxWiki News) For many years, scientists have been trying to find a way to monitor genetic changes that can lead to cancer. New technology is bringing that goal a step closer to reality.

Scientists have found a way to detect the activity of proteins that regulate cells to grow normally or become cancerous.

"New technology may advance cancer diagnosis and lead to new drug therapies."

These proteins are known as master regulators that attach themselves to the DNA in our genes.

Researchers now know that some 10 percent of the body's 25,000-30,000 genes have instructions for making these proteins, most of which are called transcription factors (TFs).

TFs start and stop various activities of genes, including switching them on and off. Understanding how all this works is important as these mechanisms are involved in the development of disease, including cancer.

Detecting TF activity has been very difficult, up until now.

Chemists, Kevin Plaxco, Francesco Ricci and colleagues have developed and successfully tested new technology they describe as "transcription factor beacons."

These fluorescent sensors literally light up when TF activity is occurring.

Researchers say the TF beacons could potentially have a number of uses in diagnosing cancer and developing new cancer drugs, as well as other areas.

This research is published in the September, 2011 issue of Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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Review Date: 
September 9, 2011