Australian researchers identify potential target to fight tumours

Australian medical researchers have developed a potential new pathway to prevent the formation of blood vessels needed for tumours to grow.

Dr Guishui Zhang and Associate Professor Levon Khachigian, from the Centre for Vascular Research, and Dr Nick Di Girolamo of the School of Medical Sciences were part of a team which suppressed a protein in the cells lining blood vessels. Those cells could no longer form new blood vessels, either in vitro or in the rat and mice experiments.

A single local injection of the DNA enzyme (DNAzyme) inhibited the growth of tumours by 60 percent, reduced the blood vessels already inside the tumours, and caused no toxicity. The work was published earlier this month in the US Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The work of the team from the Centre for Vascular Research is focused on several principal areas of research, including the isolation and characterization of new genes induced or repressed by vascular cell injury; mechanisms of signalling and transcriptional control in vascular endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells; and the use of DNAzymes as molecular and therapeutic tools.

In an editorial that accompanies the article, Dr Judah Folkman of the Children's Hospital, Boston, called the work an important advance in the field of angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels). Dr Folkman is considered the father of angiogenesis, after he developed (in the 1960s) the theory of how cancer tumours grow. http://www.unsw.edu.au

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