Researchers affiliated with the faculty of medicine at the University of British Columbia, in Canada, say they have found a way to inhibit a key enzyme that may prove a critical ‘Achilles heel’ — something that can be targeted in the development of new cancer treatment strategies.
The enzyme in question assists the cells in solid-tumor cancers in adapting and surviving when oxygen levels are low. Tumors need to hijack the host body’s vascular system to get themselves oxygen. Sometimes, though, in a growing tumor many of the cells will be distant from the nearest capillary. That means they’ll have to get along with very little oxygen.
The low-oxygen environment means that there is a build-up of acid in such cancer cells. That would be trouble for them (and good news for the host) except that they have the benefit of an enzyme called Carbonic Anhydrase IX (CAIX).
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The new paper by the Canadian scientists explains that CAIX neutralizes the acid build-up. A chemical compound that inhibits the operation of CAIX could bring about the death of many of these cells and, accordingly, could debilitate the growth of tumors.
Their paper appeared in the Journal SCIENCE ADVANCES in August 30.