New target for stopping colon cancer

21 August 2009

Posted by: Richard Tidmarsh

Category: Research & medical benefits

invitro–colon–cancer.jpgA team of scientists studying mice have found a target that could lead to an effective way to kill colon cancer cells.

Scientists developed treatments for many types of cancer in the past by targeting the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). This belongs to a group of proteins that signal cells to reproduce; if the cells can no-longer reproduce, then the cancer cannot spread. However, the drugs designed to target the receptor have shown very little effect against colon cancer, so the search is on for new targets 

The new study identified the ERBB3 receptor (a close relation to EGFR) as a candidate. They genetically blocked the newly-identified receptor in mice predisposed to colon cancer, and saw that the mice rarely went on to develop the cancer. They also tested human colon cancer cell lines, and observed increased cell death when the ERBB3 protein was removed.

The researchers will now test medicines that inhibit ERBB3 in an attempt to produce the same effect as genetic manipulation. The hope is that medicines of this type will be very effective at killing colon cancer cells where previously others have failed.