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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New weapon against cancer

We may be one step closer to a cure for cancer. Researchers from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine have found that a small peptide called angiotensin-(1-7), or Ang-(1-7) was effective in reducing breast tumors in mice. Not only that, but the peptide decimated the non-tumorous support cells that nurture the tumor.

Ang-(1-7) is a seven amino acid long hormone initially shown to inhibit the growth of the muscle cells surrounding blood vessels. These smooth muscle cells are involved in regulating blood pressure. People treated with drugs that increase Ang-(1-7), in an effort to lower blood pressure, were serendipitously found to have a lower cancer risk. Based on this data, Patricia Gallagher and Ann Tallant tested Ang-(1-7) on lung tumors. In mice, Ang-(1-7) reduced the size of both the tumor itself and of supporting blood vessels.

The team next tested Ang-(1-7) on breast tumors in mice. This time, the peptide inhibited the growth of the tumor and of cancer-associated fibroblasts (support cells in the tumor’s immediate environment that provide a scaffold for the tumor). Gallagher likens the two-pronged attack to killing seeds and destroying the soil around the seeds.

The scientists hope to go to clinical trials with Ang-(1-7) soon. The fact that it works in more than one type of mouse tumor is very exciting. Let's hope it's as effective in humans.

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