News of Note—Attacking Ewing sarcoma; understanding heart defects; starving cancer cells of sugar

CDK inhibitors combined with PARP inhibitors may prove an effective way to stop the growth of Ewing sarcoma. (Wikimedia Commons)

Inhibiting CDK could prove effective in Ewing sarcoma

Ewing sarcoma, the second most common form of bone tumor in young people, is driven by an abnormal protein called EWS/FLI. An emerging class of cancer drugs called CDK inhibitors may be able to disarm EWS/FLI, according to scientists at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. They found a link between the enzyme CDK12 and EWS/FLI, and they showed in mouse models of Ewing sarcoma that CDK12 inhibitors could slow down tumor growth and extend life. Furthermore, they gathered evidence that combining those drugs with PARP inhibitors might eliminate the tumors altogether. CDK12 inhibitors are in early clinical trials and PARP inhibitors are already on the market. They published their findings in the journal Cancer Cell. (Release)

One gene’s key role in congenital heart defects

The gene MESP1 is known to be a key player in the development of the human heart, but its exact role in ensuring that all of the organ’s structures form properly has long been a mystery. Now scientists at Université libre de Bruxelles and University of Cambridge have found that MESP1 is vital for governing the process by which progenitor cells turn into cardiac muscle or vascular structures. They believe that by further studying the molecular characteristics of this process, they can identify causes and potential interventions for heart defects before they form. They published their research in the journal Science. (Release)

A new way to starve cancer cells of energy

Cancer cells need vast amounts of energy to divide rapidly, so they consume more sugar than healthy cells do. It would stand to reason, then, that depriving cancer cells of sugar would slow the progression of the disease, but that strategy has not worked well in the past. So a research team led by Duke University and the National University of Singapore set out to define how depleting sugar may cause cancer cells to die. They discovered that if they inhibit sugar intake while simultaneously boosting calcium in cancer cells, they could kill the cells without affecting healthy cells. They aim to develop a cancer combination therapy from their findings, which they described in the journal Science Signaling. (Release)