Attack of the Mutants

Look out! Mutant armies on the attack!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Our bodies naturally recognize and fight cancers. One weapon? p53! That’s a protein that triggers cell death, stopping developing cancer cells in their tracks! But when this protein mutates and clusters, its superpower is LOST. Could we p53 and get the protein its job back?

Enter Loganathan Palanikumar and colleagues from New York University Abu Dhabi. 

The researchers tested a chemical known to break up protein clusters in Alzheimers’ disease. They thought it could do the same with p53 and reactivate the cancer fighting switch. 

Results? Thirty percent of p53 clusters were broken up in human cancer cells! This drug also jump-started anti-cancer mechanisms in these cells. In mice with cancer, this drug shrunk tumors by about sixty percent!

Rescuing these natural cancer fighters could spring our bodies’ defenses back into action! And offer an alternative to traditional treatments like chemotherapy.

Watch out, cancer! With weapons like p53 , you might just be… CAN-CELLED! 

Reference: Palanikumar, L., Karpauskaite, L., Al-Sayegh, M., Chehade, I., Alam, M., Hassan, S., Maity, D., Ali, L., Kalmouni, M., Hunashal, Y., Ahmed, J., Houhou, T., Karapetyan, S., Falls, Z., Samudrala, R., Pasricha, R., Esposito, G., Afzal, A. J., Hamilton, A. D., … Magzoub, M. (2021). Protein mimetic amyloid inhibitor potently abrogates cancer-associated mutant p53 aggregation and restores tumor suppressor function. Nature Communications, 12(1).

Image credit: Lauren Urban