News / Science & Technology

Disabling Protein Cripples Cancer Cells

This undated image made available by the National Institutes of Health and National Center for Microscopy in Aug. 2013 shows cancerous cells, called HeLa cells.
This undated image made available by the National Institutes of Health and National Center for Microscopy in Aug. 2013 shows cancerous cells, called HeLa cells.
Jessica Berman
Scientists have successfully crippled aggressive cancer cells by disabling a single protein known as an ether lipid, part of a family of fatty molecules that includes cholesterol. Researchers hope to develop drugs that can be used alongside chemotherapy to treat some malignant cancers.

Ether lipids are highly elevated in aggressive cancer cells, and by disabling the enzyme responsible for their production researchers have been able to disable malignant cancer cells.

Ether lipids are normally found in cell membranes. So it makes sense that their levels are high in aggressive tumors, because tumors need the nourishing fatty molecule to divide and grow at an accelerated rate.  

Researchers at the University of California Berkeley, led by Daniel Nomura, converted skin cells into aggressive tumor cells in culture and then disabled an enzyme, called AGPS, that’s critical to the formation of ether lipids. They also injected mice with both cancerous skin cells and aggressive breast cancer cells, and the rodents quickly developed tumors.  

But disabling AGPS, Nomura said, hindered the ability of the cancer cells to grow and spread. "They could still proliferate at least in culture. But at least in tumor models in mice, we could completely suppress growth,” he said.

Nomura said cancer researchers have known since the early 1950s that ether lipids play a role in cancer growth, but this is the first time scientists have shown how the fatty molecule facilitates cancer proliferation. He says ether lipids also exist in lower levels in benign tumors, and Nomura hopes blocking AGPS will prevent those tumors from becoming malignant.

Researchers are now trying to develop a drug that targets AGPS, increasing the chances that chemotherapy will cure many hard to treat cancers.

“Certainly I don’t think the AGPS inhibitor is the cure for every cancer, but it would probably be combined with other chemotherapeutic agents.”

An article on the role of ether lipids as a driver of aggressive cancers is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More