Discovery: A way to make cancer cells self-destruct

Million of cells in our bodies ‘kill’ themselves every day to help protect us from potentially harmful ones. Cancer cells, on the other hand, ignore our immune system’s signals – and finding a way to stop this has been the ‘Holy Grail’ of cancer research.

The research team has identified a new pathway that works as a partner to a gene called MYC which controls normal cell growth, but when it is mutated or amplified in cancer, it sets off a chain reaction that helps tumours grow uncontrollably.

The pathway involves a protein called ATF4, and when it’s blocked, it can cause cancer cells to produce too much protein and die.

Published in the journal Nature Cell Biology, the study done on mice points the way towards a new therapeutic approach as inhibitors that can block synthesis of ATF4 already exist.

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