Toxin found to inhibit 'survival proteins' in cancer cells

In collaboration with the Press Association

A modified version of a toxin used to control fish populations might be able to block drug resistance in cancer cells.

Antimycin is a poison currently used to control species of invasive fish in lakes.

Researchers from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre have now found that a chemically modified version of antimycin, 2-Methoxy antimycin, blocks the action of two proteins required for cancer cells to survive.

The team have revealed that 2-Methoxy antimycin kills cells that have high levels of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL, proteins that have been linked to resistance to chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

"Cancers can become addicted to certain proteins, so just by over-expressing the protein the cell changes so that it can't live without that protein," explained principal researcher David Hockenbery, professor of medicine at the University of Washington Medical Centre and a member of the Hutchinson Centre's clinical research division.

His team proposes that, by using the modified toxin to inhibit the proteins in question, it may be possible to prevent some cancer cells' resistance to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The finding could lead to the development of an agent that could be given alongside conventional cancer therapy, to increase the likelihood of successful treatment.

The study is published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.