New weapon in the fight against breast cancer
An international team including Rice University researchers has discovered a way to fight the overexpression of a protein associated with the proliferation of breast cancer.
Dialing down the level of the protein NAF-1 and the activity of the iron-sulfur clusters it transports may be key to halting tumor growth, they reported.
In a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers suggest a drug that is typically used to treat type 2 diabetes, pioglitazone, has proven effective at controlling NAF-1 levels.
They also discovered that a single mutation to NAF-1 almost completely blocked the ability of cancer cells to proliferate, a result they said supports the idea that lowering NAF-1 expression can help stop tumors.
Fine-tuning the drug to specifically address tumors could bring a new weapon to the battle against breast cancer and other cancers, the researchers said. Overexpression of NAF-1 also has been associated with prostate, gastric, cervical, liver and laryngeal cancer, they said.
“Now that we know tumors that overexpress this protein are more sensitive to this type of drug, we can design new drugs in a way that will attack the clusters,” Mittler said.
The team also discovered through experiments that expression of an NAF-1 protein that carried a single-point mutation had a similarly toxic effect on cancer cells and prevented tumor proliferation.