Cancer researchers at the University of California San Diego revealed a new way to potentially target cancer cells, according to a study published Wednesday.
For decades scientists have been directly targeting mutant KRAS genes, genes which are capable of mutating cells into the most deadly forms of cancer, but the tests were unsucessful in reducing cancer growth, according to a statement from UCSD.
Now researchers have found that targeting two other genes in the cancer cell genome, NADK and KHK, actually yields results.
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Researchers used CRISPR-Cas9 techniques to apply a drug to inactivate every gene in the human colorectal cancer genome, and found when NADK and KHK were inactivated, growth in KRAS-mutant tumors with were reduced by 50 percent, according to the study. Normal KRAS tumors were not affected.
Scientists transplanted the human cancer cells to mice for the study. According to the UCSD statement, tests using laboratory grown cancer cells yielded no results.
The study also found when other genes were inactivated it caused KRAS tumor production to increase. Scientists termed these genes as “tumor suppressors” because they help control cancer cell growth when activated, according to the UCSD statement.
One of the “tumor suppressor” genes scientists were able to identify is INO80C, a protein that helps stabilize the genome, according to the study.
KRAS-mutant genes are found in the most difficult to treat cancers, such as lung, pancreatic and colorectal cancers, according to the UCSD statement. Cancer cells with the Kras-mutant gene can change its metabolism in a way normal cells cannot.
Scientists involved with the study plan on using this new information to develop better therapies to treat cancer, according to the UCSD statement.