Researchers at Penn Medicine have found a way to cause some cancer cells to self-destruct, a finding that could lead to new treatments.
Blocking a protein called ATF4 causes cancer cells to produce too much protein, researchers found. In turn, those cancer cells die of stress.
The researchers successfully blocked tumor growth in mice with lymphomas and colorectal cancer. There's evidence that this approach could work on humans by targeting cancers driven the gene that typically controls normal cell growth. But when the gene becomes mutated or over-expressed, it kick-starts a chain reaction that enables tumors to grow – primarily lymphoma, neuroblastoma and colon cancer.
Researchers have targeted the gene directly for years without success. The latest study took a backdoor approach by blocking another step in the chain reaction.
Additional studies will be conducted to better understand the reason the protein acts in this manner and to identify other potential targets in the chain.
The findings were published Monday in the journal Nature Cell Biology.