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X-rays probe structure of potential cancer drug

Axl proteinHere are two things I hadn’t necessarily thought go together: drug development and X-ray beams. But it turns out the two are closely connected.

I recently wrote about a variety of collaborations between Stanford faculty and scientists at SLAC National Acceleration Laboratory. In the process I learned a thing or two about the ways scientists can devise ever more precise drugs using a technique called X-ray crystallography to learn the atomic details of how drugs and molecules interact.

In one story, I discussed the work of bioengineer Jennifer Cochran, PhD, who made use of SLAC's Stanford Synchotron Radiation Lightsource to probe the way a protein she had engineered interacted with another protein involved in allowing cancer cells to spread throughout the body.

"The idea is that if you could study this interaction you could use it in a predictive way down the road," Cochran told me.

In addition to continuing to work with this potential cancer drug, Cochran said that she's using similar methods to interfere with two proteins that help blood vessels infiltrate and support tumors.

Previously: New "decoy" protein blocks cancer from spreading and Fast-forwarding evolution to select suitable proteins
Image of the Axl protein courtesy of the Cochran lab

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