Washington, May 30 : Researchers from Boston College and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, have found that a critical enzyme used to prepare a powerful cancer-killing agent may be able to help drug makers better target the cells the natural product attacks.
Based on their previous study into neocarzinostatin, researchers found that one of the enzymes contained in the bacteria used to produce the drug might hold promise in creating newer, more stable compounds from the structurally complex class of antibiotic known as chromoproteins.
"We've revealed that the enzyme is loose in specificity, which means it may be able to be used to make new drugs. Based on these findings, we foresee success in the lab making certain compounds more controllable," said Boston College Chemist Steven D. Bruner, a co-author of the report.
Bruner said that the drug - an enediyne anti-tumour agent - used as chemotherapeutic, targets both normal and cancer cells.
However, the team has determined that the chemical components of the antibiotic are capable of distinguishing between normal cells and cancer cells.
The latest study confirmed the team's proposal that the naphthoic acid within the compound can be altered to design cancer-fighting drugs specific to chemotherapeutic targets.
That will require the use of genetic engineering in order to manipulate the molecules within the bacteria, which occurs naturally in soil.
Bruner said that genetic engineering would allow researchers to produce more specific and less toxic analogs of neocarzinostatin and increase the available supply of the drug.
"This is the beginning of an approach to be able to understand and manipulate these chemical pathways to make new drugs," Bruner said.
The study is published in the May 23 edition of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.