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Discovery could help treat cancer more effectively

Mohammad Ali (seated), Michael Hendzel (left) and Leo Spyracopoulos discovered that a protein called RYBP prevents cancer cells from repairing themselves, which could make anti-cancer therapies more effective. (Photo: Melissa Fabrizio)

University of Alberta researchers have discovered a mechanism that may make cancer cells more susceptible to treatment.

Post-doctoral fellow Mohammad Ali and his research team found that the protein RYBP prevents DNA repair in cancer cells, including breast cancer, which in turn could make chemo or radiation therapy more effective.

“Cancer cells that resist therapy are able to repair themselves despite the DNA damage. By preventing them from repairing, we could more effectively treat cancer,” explained Ali.

The discovery could be another avenue for precision medicine, which would allow cancer treatment to be tailored to the patient’s DNA. The new RYBP biomarker could predict which patients will benefit from specific types of chemotherapy. There may also be opportunities to develop drugs that treat cancer by activating RYBP in tumours, including breast cancer.

“My dream is to take this (discovery) from bench to bedside and allow physicians to screen patients for better outcomes,” said Ali.

The project was a collaboration between two U of A labs, led by Michael Hendzel from the departments of oncology and cell biology, and Leo Spyracopoulos from the Department of Biochemistry. Spyracopoulos helped to identify the structural biology of this phenomenon. Both Hendzel and Spyracopoulos are members of the Cancer Research Institute of Northern Alberta.

The study is published in Cell Reports. Funding for this project was provided by the Alberta Cancer Foundation, Alberta Innovates, the Alberta Cancer Prevention Legacy Fund and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Read the full story here.

Discovery could help treat cancer more effectively

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