Washington, Jan 18 : Scientists at the German Cancer Research Center have found HC-toxin, which is isolated from a fungal plant pathogen, as a basis for developing new drugs to treat neuroblastoma, a tumour of the nervous system in kids.
The researchers said that the maize pathogen substance reprograms neuroblastoma cells in such a manner that they behave almost like healthy cells again.
HC-toxin acts on enzymes known as histone deacetylases (HDACs), which are responsible for the cause of cancer or promote its spread.
While studying the substance, the researchers found that neuroblastoma cells lose several of their cancer-typical properties when under the influence of the substance: They divide less frequently, show less invasive growth and even their outside appearance resembles healthy nerve cells again.
The effect of the new substance was found to be stronger than the other HDAC inhibitors investigated previously.
HC-toxin's effect is presumably based, among other things, on the fact that it promotes the function of an important cellular 'cancer brake' known as RB signalling pathway.
The researchers found that the cancer brake was much more active in tumours cells that had been treated with HC-toxin than in untreated cells.
Now, they are planning to conduct further studies to find out whether the newly found substance is suitable for developing a new drug to fight neuroblastoma.