Newly created peptide turns cancer friend into foe

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Washington, October 8 : A team of American scientists has created a peptide that binds to Bcl-2, a protein that protects cancer cells from programmed cell death, and converts it into a cancer cell killer.

The progress made by scientists at Burnham Institute for Medical Research takes then a step closer to creating new cancer treatments.

The Bcl-2 protein has long been implicated in protecting cancer cells from apoptosis, the process that usually keeps cancer cells in check.

The researchers have revealed that the peptide called NuBCP-9, and its mirror-image molecule work on Bcl-2 like a molecular switch, converting it into a pro-apoptotic protein, and inducing cell death in cancer cells.

"Our results provide insight into Bcl-2 conversion and identify a new direction for Bcl-2-based drug leads and cancer drug development," said Dr. Xiao-kun Zhang, who co-authored the paper with Dr. Arnold Satterthwait and others.

The researchers created the NuBCP-9 peptide from Nur77, a potent pro-apoptotic protein.

Nur77 often moves from the nucleus to mitochondria, in response to different death signals, where it binds to Bcl-2, changing its shape and function.

A report on this study has been published in the journal Cancer Cell.

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