International collaboration sheds light on cancer therapies

“We have identified new compounds that offer a starting point for the development of novel therapeutic approaches for serious diseases that currently have no cure.

“This opens up the possibility of desigining much more effective, targeted treatments for disease such as cancer,” said Professor Phil Robinson of the Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI), Westmead.

It was a working collaboration between CMRI, the University of Newcastle and the University of Berlin which led to the discovery of small molecules known as “Pitstops”.

And it is these molecules which hold promise for the suppression of abnormal cell growth and division in cancer patients.

‘Pitstops’ actively inhibit a protein called ‘clathrin’ which is key to the process of ‘endocytosis’. To translate, endocytosis is known more generally as “cell ingestion” – which means that as well as preventing the uptake of signalling molecules which stimulate cancer growth, this discovery also has implications for the entry of viruses (such as the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV) and some bacteria into our cells.

Their discovery opens up the possibility of designing much more effective treatments for cancer such as brain tumours, the growth of which depends on the uptake of signalling molecules.

“By enhancing our knowledge of the role of proteins in endocytosis, including clathrin, we can ultimately attempt to prevent the spread of some diseases in the body,” explained Professor Phil Robinson.

ACRF proudly supports cancer research throughout Australia and in late 2010 awarded a $3.1 million grant to the Children’s Medical Research Institute.

The findings of this research are published online (date August 5, 2011) in the prestigious international journal CELL.