Jiji Press KOBE (Jiji Press) — A research team of Konan University in Kobe has developed an effective photodynamic cancer therapy that specifically targets a protein that facilitates tumor growth and metastasis.
As abnormal functioning of proteins in the so-called RAS family have been known for causing cancer, RAS-targeted cancer therapies have been thought to hold promise. However, due to the proteins’ structural features, no practical medicine has so far been developed.
According to the university’s announcement and the team’s research article published online by the British scientific journal Nature Communications, Prof. Daisuke Miyoshi and colleagues successfully controlled the generation of NRAS, one of the RAS proteins that helps cancer grow and metastasize, by a photodynamic method.
It is difficult to directly destroy the NRAS protein because its spherical shape makes it hard for a chemical compound to bind with the protein’s surface to go inside before becoming a destroyer when exposed to light.
The researchers focused on a portion of the messenger ribonucleic acid, or mRNA, that contains genetic information to make the NRAS protein, because the mRNA allows other substances to bind with it easily. They hypothesized that if the NRAS gene-coding portion was removed, NRAS generation would be curbed.
In the research, a photosensitive zinc compound that had already been confirmed to bind only with nucleic acids of the NRAS portion was inserted into human breast cancer cells and exposed to near-infrared light. As a result, the amount of the protein decreased by some 60 percent and the 24-hour survival rate of the cancer cells dropped to 5 percent.
Furthermore, the method proved effective even under the condition of low oxygen, which is usually seen in deep parts of tumors and makes photodynamic therapies, which utilize active oxygen to kill cancer cells, inefficient.