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Cancer Research Takes Big Strides with New Pharmaceutical Treatment

By Kalyan Mukherjee

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego recently announced the discovery of a new drug therapy that has enabled the destruction of highly proliferative tumors. Many of the therapies currently available to treat such cancers have a number of discouraging side effects without a high rate of success. The alternative method proves more effective and ultimately safer for the patient. The new drug technique works by preventing division in tumor cells, binding to an enzyme called RAF to permanently alter its structure and preclude its role in division. While previous studies have focused on RAF, they failed to recognize the centrality of the enzyme in the growth of tumors and cell multiplication. Under the direction of Dr. David A. Cheresh, the team of researchers engineered an entirely new class of drugs that target RAF. Only after creating the drug did researchers understand the enzyme’s relation to cell division.

In the past, scientists have engineered classes of drugs that target RAF, concentrating primarily on ones that interact with the enzyme’s active site. Unfortunately, this mechanism results in a lack of drug specificity, meaning that the substances had a wide range of effects on other structures. Consequently, patients who took these drugs often reported a number of negative effects. Furthermore, the danger of toxicity limited the doses that physicians could administer, in turn curbing the effectiveness of such drugs. Tumor cells have also developed resistances to these classes in the past, rendering them completely ineffective.

The new RAF inhibitors that Dr. Cheresh and his team engineered do not bind to the enzyme’s active site and therefore avoid most of the problems that arose with other experimental classes. The new class changes the fundamental shape of RAF in proliferating cells while ignoring the enzyme in normal or resting cells. With this degree of specificity, the new drug, known as KG5, will not have the wide range of side effects associated with previous RAF inhibitors. With an altered shape, RAF in proliferating cells cannot assist in the division process. KG5 also halts the proliferation of blood vessels, making it even more promising as a future treatment option.

About the Author

Understanding the importance of supporting medical research, Kalyan Mukherjee contributes to the American Institute of Cancer Research, as well as the Alzheimer’s Association. He enjoys following the latest developments in medical research. Residing in Greenwich, Connecticut, Kalyan Mukherjee acts as Lead Manager of Portfolio Generation for a hedge fund management firm, where he employs lean sigma principles and expert managerial skills to deliver the highest quality services to clients.


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