A “trio” of proteins that appear to play a pivotal role in the onset of various cancers has been revealed by Prof. Uri Nir, Director of the Nano Medicine Center at the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (BINA) and Dean of The Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences at Bar-Ilan University. With this finding, Prof. Nir is now proceeding to develop novel anti-cancer drugs that will target key regulators.
He uses nanosized vehicles to deliver cancer-fighting drugs directly to malignant cells. Working together with Dr. Yoav Pass, Prof. Nir’s techniques may make it possible to achieve better results with lower doses, leading to a reduction in chemotherapy-related side effects. His lab studies the involvement of stress response circuits in the adaptation of cells to stress insults, and in the growth of cancer cells.
The Three “Cross-Talking” Proteins
Three intracellular proteins which “cross-talk” with each other are being studied in Nir’s lab.
The enzyme Fer resides in both the cytoplasm and nucleus of cells, which supports the resistance of cells to various stress cues such as oxidation and nutrient deprivation. Nir’s team has recently discovered a previously unknown form of Fer, which is solely expressed in malignant cells. Specific targeting of this form led to the programmed cell death of the treated cancer cells. Thus, this form of Fer is a novel target for cancer intervention.
TRNP, a nuclear protein that associates with chromatin and is highly expressed in neuronal brain cells, is a transcription regulator that supports the survival of these cells under defined stress conditions. The malfunctioning of TRNP may, therefore, contribute to the onset of neuronal cell death and consequent neurodegenerative diseases. Nir’s lab is currently examining the functioning of TRNP in mice models under normal and pathological conditions.
TMF is a protein that Prof. Nir’s group recently characterized as a master regulator, which modulates the response of cells to stress insults and thus plays a key role in the acquired resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapeutic agents. They are now devising molecular approaches for manipulating the TMF system and, thereby, restoring the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapeutic treatments.
Focusing on Fer’s Role in Cancer Progression
Key scientific goals of Nir’s group include further exploration of the role of Fer in cancer and inflammatory diseases, and identification of low molecular weight compounds that would affect Fer and attenuate the progression of cancer and inflammatory diseases.
In addition, they hope to identify and characterize substrates of the Fer enzyme and further elucidate its function. Lastly, they would like to investigate the tumor suppressive activity of TMF using modified TMF genes, for the purpose of developing novel anti-cancer gene therapy approaches.
To learn more about Prof. Nir’s research to combat cancer, call Howard Charish at 212-906-3900.