Researchers at the University of East Anglia in England say they have identified the gene that helps cancer spread throughout the body, and that finding a drug that deactivates that gene could make treating cancer both easier and more likely to be successful.
The culprit, called WWP2, is an enzymatic bonding agent in cancer cells that attacks the body's natural inhibitors of the spread of cancer.
Lead author Andrew Chantry says in the school's press release that the discovery could lead to the development of a new generation of drugs within the coming decade to stop cancer's aggressive spread:
The late stages of cancer involve a process known as metastasis--a critical phase in the progression of the disease that cannot currently be treated or prevented. The challenge now is to identify a potent drug that will get inside cancer cells and destroy the activity of the rogue gene. This is a difficult but not impossible task, made easier by the deeper understanding of the biological processes revealed in this study.
Specifically, the team found that by blocking WWP2, the body's natural inhibitors are boosted and the offending cancer cells remain dormant. So a drug that deactivates WWP2 would essentially keep the body's own fighting mechanism robust.
The findings appear this week in the journal Oncogene.