Researchers from the Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI) have discovered a way to destroy a cancer-causing protein using a chemical compound.

In a study using three-dimensional crystallography and computer-aided drug design, co-principal investigator Gilbert Privé, an OCI senior scientist, and colleagues filtered more than 1 million potential compounds down to one compound that proved not only to be successful at killing lymphoma cells but also was nontoxic.

Results showed that a cancer-causing protein, BCL6, was blocked by researchers using the chemical compound they initially identified. “If you picture cell proteins as a circuit board, we have found a way to short-circuit a defective connection without destroying the entire board,” explained Dr. Privé.

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“We have identified a new avenue for drug development,” said Dr. Privé. “It is exciting because until now, the prevailing wisdom has been that cancer proteins such as BCL6 would not respond in this way to chemical manipulation. We have proven otherwise.”

The findings were published in Cancer Cell (2010 Apr 13;17(4):400-11).