Researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (Australia) have pinpointed a protein that could prevent the development of blood cancers. Their work was published recently in the journal Cell Reports.
Approximately 70% of human cancers are driven by abnormally high levels the protein MYC. The research team discovered, however, that lowering levels of the MCL-1 protein can prevent MYC-driven blood cancers.
“No one had realized just how vulnerable cells undergoing cancerous changes are to a relatively minor reduction in the levels of MCL-1,” explained Stephanie Grabow (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute). “We found that MCL-1 is critical for keeping developing cancer cells alive through the stressful events that cause the transformation of a healthy cell into a cancerous cell.”
“This result is particularly exciting because MCL-1 inhibitors are already in development as anticancer drugs,” continued Grabow. “Our colleagues had previously discovered that reducing the activity of MCL-1 is a promising strategy to treat malignant MYC-driven cancers. We have now shown that the same approach might be able to prevent those cancers from forming in the first place.”
Brandon Aubrey (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute) remarked on the possible future implications of the work in cancer prevention strategies: “Cancer researchers are building a better picture of who is at risk of developing cancer, and enhancing how we can detect early stage cancer in people before it has grown to the point of causing illness. Our research has suggested that dependency on MCL-1 could be a key vulnerability of many developing cancers. In the future MCL-1 inhibitors might have potential benefit for treating the very early stages of MYC-driven cancers, or we may even be able use these agents to prevent people from getting cancer in the first place.”