August 26, 2010

Curing the Incurable

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- It's a scientist's dream comes true. They are reporting progress in making drugs that target the "untouchables" among the body's key players in health and disease, according to a new study.

There are hundreds of thousands of proteins in the human body, many of them with links to human disease. However, only a tiny fraction, about 20 percent of these proteins are considered "druggable," meaning that previous efforts to develop a drug against them had failed. But now, advances in science could lead to a new generation of medicines for treating cancer, diabetes and other major diseases.

They reported on a new family of potential drugs that are capable of blocking a key protein that's involved in the development of cancer. Called stapled peptides, it holds the peptides, or protein fragments, in a compact shape that gives them high stability in comparison to their unfolded versions. The three-dimensional shape is critical for the peptide to function normally and help orchestrate body processes. The chemical stapling allows them to resist destruction by enzymes, easily penetrate cells, and bind to biochemical machinery within cells.

"The entire pharmaceutical industry has been working on drug-design platforms that focus on this little sliver of human drug targets and this limits the drug arsenal available to doctors," Gregory Verdine, Ph.D., study leader and chemical biologist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass was quoted saying. "What's required is an entirely new class of drugs that overcome the shortcomings of drugs of the past."

In addition to stapled peptides, scientists also described new insights into how proteins interact with other proteins and how the use of small molecules can target and treat cancer.

SOURCE: 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, August 2010.