The Korea Herald


Research could help cancer treatment

By Korea Herald

Published : June 12, 2012 - 19:12

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A team from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have found the cause of resistance to an anti-tumor drug, which may open new possibilities for cancer treatment.

The scientists used computer simulations and mathematical biology to investigate the cause of the drug resistance. They discovered that cell signaling ― how cells communicate and respond to their environment ― plays an important role in the mechanism.

The study, supported by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and National Research Foundation of Korea, was published in the June 1 edition of Journal of Molecular Cell Biology.

The anti-tumor drug, called an MEK inhibitor, is thought to be promising, but symptoms of drug resistance are often reported in clinical tests, making it difficult to use for cancer treatment, according to the study.

But the researchers claim that they have discovered the reason the MEK inhibitor does not always work.

Unlike other studies, the researchers used systems biology, an analytical approach that involves computer simulations and mathematical biology, to reveal the resistance mechanisms of the drug.

The study revealed that the drug resistance occurs in the ERK pathway, a chain of proteins that sends signals to the DNA in the cell, but it can be reduced by combining the MEK inhibitor with another chemically synthesized compound.

“It is the first time computer simulations have been used to find out the cause of the drug resistance,” said Cho Kwang-hyun, who led the study, noting that the study creates a new platform in systems biology.

The methodologies and techniques of systems biology are in increasing demand for analyzing complex diseases, such as cancer, as traditional experimental biology is mainly based on individual genes and proteins.

By Oh Kyu-wook (