When I asked cancer researcher Amato Giaccia, PhD, to explain his new discovery, he told me to think of it in terms of a baseball glove. Pretend, he said, that the baseball glove is a receptor and the molecule we are targeting is the baseball. “We basically came up with a better glove, with a much stronger ability to catch the baseball.”
In many forms of cancers such as pancreatic and ovarian, there are molecules called Gas6 that bind to receptors in the body called Axl at high rates, inducing tumor growth and progression.
Giaccia and his team developed a decoy receptor (the glove) that bound to Gas6 (the baseball) 350 times better than Axl. These decoy receptors inhibited the molecules from binding to the original Axl receptors in the body and thereby reduced cancer progression in mice.
The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
By chance, they also discovered a new mechanism in the body: In mice, when their decoy receptor inhibited Gas6 from binding to the native Axl receptor, the cancer cells began to release molecules that caused their own death.
'A lot of treatments out there are very toxic because they are not specifically targeting the cancer cells, and they have a huge burden on the liver and kidney... Our decoy receptor seems in mice to not only to be very efficacious but also safe.'
'We are actively working to push this into clinical trials,' said Miao. 'But we are also interested in looking at how our molecule affects other types of cancers.' They hope to continue studies on how this decoy receptor could enhance treatments for other types of cancer, such as leukemia.
Previously: New "decoy" protein blocks cancer from spreading and Studying the drivers of metastasis to combat cancer
Photo by cpastrick