Researchers have discovered why copper-fixing proteins are necessary for the growth and dissemination of cancer cells within the human body. Recent studies on the interactions between proteins and how they bind to metals in cancer-related proteins have revealed potential novel treatment targets.
Human cells need trace amounts of the metal copper to carry out necessary biological processes. Studies showing higher copper levels in tumour cells and blood serum from cancer patients have led researchers to the conclusion that cancer cells require more copper than healthy cells do. Additionally, when copper levels are higher, more copper-binding proteins are active. A protein called Memo1 is part of the signaling systems that cancer cells use to grow and spread around the body. Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden studied how this protein interacts with copper. Reduced copper contributes to redox-reactions that damage – or kill – the cells it comes into contact with. Copper ions could transfer between the proteins Memo1 and Atox1 in test tubes and breast cancer cells. This suggests that copper and copper-binding proteins could be targets for future cancer treatment. The researchers now want to move forward with determining the copper ion binding sites in memo1.
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