Burnham researchers turn cancer friend into cancer foe

October 07, 2008

LA JOLLA, Calif., October 7, 2008 -- Burnham Institute for Medical Research today announced that scientists have 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 research, which was published as the featured article in the October 7 edition of Cancer Cell, may lead to new cancer treatments.

The Bcl-2 protein has long been implicated in protecting cancer cells from apoptosis (programmed cell death), the process that usually keeps cancer cells in check. This peptide (called NuBCP-9) and its enantiomer (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 Xiao-kun Zhang, Ph.D., who co-authored the paper with Arnold Satterthwait, Ph.D. and others.

The NuBCP-9 peptide was created 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.
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About Burnham Institute for Medical Research

Burnham Institute for Medical Research is dedicated to revealing the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. Burnham is one of the fastest growing research institutes in the country with operations in California and Florida. The Institute ranks among the top four institutions nationally for NIH grant funding and among the top 25 organizations worldwide for its research impact. Burnham utilizes a unique, collaborative approach to medical research and has established major research programs in cancer, neurodegeneration, diabetes, infectious and inflammatory and childhood diseases. The Institute is known for its world-class capabilities in stem cell research and drug discovery technologies. Burnham is a nonprofit, public benefit corporation. For more information, please visit www.burnham.org.

Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

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