New molecules target tumor cell metastasis

A research team in the U.K. is proposing that a new group of synthetic molecules could play a lead role fighting cancer, inflammation and other diseases.

The molecules are derived from UDP-Galactose, inhibiting enzymes called glycosyltransferases, which are used by biological cells to turn simple sugars into elongated sugar chains and branched structures. By blocking the enzymes, the researchers say they can prevent the development of intricate structures that allow cells to acquire control of other cells. And by doing that, they can throw a monkey wrench in the process of metastasis, by which cancer spreads in the body. It could also be put to use halting bacterial infection.

"This exciting discovery of a potent enzyme inhibitor with a completely new mechanism of action has considerable therapeutic potential in cancer, inflammation and infection," said lead author Dr. Gerd Wagner of UEA. "Our results also provide a general strategy for how to design and improve such inhibitors in the future. The 'snapshots' we have taken of one of these enzymes, together with the new inhibitor itself, can provide very valuable guidance for the development of new anti-cancer and anti-infective drug candidates."

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