New Weapons Against Cancer

Enzyme inhibitors may help fight disease, researchers say

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MONDAY, Sept. 15, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Certain enzyme inhibitors may slow tumor growth and could possibly be used in treatments to delay or prevent cancer recurrence, says a study by researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

They treated cultured human tumor cells with a compound that blocks the activity of telomerase. It's an enzyme that maintains telomeres, repeating sequences of DNA at the end of each chromosome that are thought to function as a counting mechanism for cellular aging.

Telomerase prevents the shortening of the sequence of DNA that occurs in normal cells as they age. Telomerase is found in most kinds of tumor cells but it isn't found in healthy cells. That suggests that telomerase inhibitors may offer a new approach to chemotherapy.

When the UT Southwestern researchers treated the tumor cells with the telomerase inhibitor, they found a significant reduction in tumor cell proliferation after a few weeks.

They also found that prostate cancer cells treated with the telomerase inhibitor barely formed tumors in mice and yielded low levels of prostate specific antigen, a marker associated with malignancy.

The study appears in the current issue of Cancer.

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SOURCE: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, news release, Sept. 15, 2003

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