Discovery could lead to new drugs to block protein that fuels bowel cancer

Scientists have revealed the inner workings of a key protein involved in a wide range of cellular processes — potentially paving the way for better and less toxic cancer drugs.

Using Nobel Prize-winning microscopy techniques, the researchers revealed how the tankyrase protein switches itself on and off by self-assembling into 3D chain-like structures.

Their study, published in the journal Nature, reveals crucial structural insights into the elusive but important tankyrase protein, which plays a particularly important role in helping drive bowel cancer.

Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, believe their research will open the door to new types of cancer treatment that can control tankyrase more precisely than is currently possible, with fewer side effects.

The fundamental discovery could have implications for treating various cancers, as well as diabetes and inflammatory, cardiac and neurodegenerative diseases.

The study was mainly funded by Cancer Research UK, Wellcome and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), which is itself a charity as well as a research institute.

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