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HK scientists identify cancer-blocking protein

Written by: Staff

HONG KONG, Oct 27 (Reuters) Scientists in Hong Kong have identified a protein that can help suppress the growth of prostate cancer cells, the third most common cancer in men worldwide.

With half a million new cases a year, prostate cancer afflicts one in every six men in the United States and one in 50 males in Hong Kong.

But current therapies for advanced prostate cancer, such as chemotherapy, are far from satisfactory and carry side effects.

In a study first published online in the July issue of Endocrinology, researchers at the University of Hong Kong found that human prostate cancer cells produce a protein called sPDZD2.

The researchers found that when the protein was blocked in laboratory mice, prostate cancer cells in the rodents grew more quickly, and vice versa.

The results of the research were officially announced yesterday and will appear in the printed version of the journal in November.

Yao Kwok-ming, biochemistry assistant professor, explained that sPDZD2 influences the production of p53, a human protein that is widely known to suppress tumours.

''P53 is produced by all cells but the amount varies. When it senses stress signals, more of it will be produced. In the absence of stress, the level of p53 is very low,'' Yao said.

''SPDZD2 ... turns on p53. More p53 is produced and there is a slowing down of the growth of these cancer cells.'' The finding might pave the way for the making of a new drug but that is not expected to materialise anytime soon.

''It would take at least 10 years,'' said Stephen Shui, physiology associate profession at the University of Hong Kong.

Yao added: ''We want (the drug) to mimic the effect of sPDZD2. We want to turn on the pathway so more p53 can be made. It is the guardian angel and it can slow down (cancer) cell cycle progression.'' REUTERS AB VV0916

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