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Elegant Themes

Whitehead Institute scientists bring new CRISPR tools to strengthen cancer chemotherapy

Jul 13, 2018, 10:30 am

The gap between cure and cancer is about to get reduced further, as the scientists of Whitehead Institute has deployed the new CRISPR tools for understanding an uncovering new ways to improve the popular Cancer chemotherapy drug named methotrexate.

David Sabatini and his team at Whitehead has pioneered the use of the genome editing system called CRISPR/Cas9. It can analyze large-scale genetic screens of human cells, which further leads to new findings on cellular metabolism for both normal and cancer cells.

Methotrexate is being used for about seven decades now, and if deployed as a multifaceted treatment plan, it can be highly effective. However, it affects not just cancer cells but also damages healthy tissues. This is in the case of treating a form of pediatric leukemia.

Regarding other forms of cancer, the efficacy of the drug is uncertain, and doctors yet do not have ways to comprehend how human bodies respond to the dose. To put it simply, the potential of the drug remains a mystery so far.

This is where CRISPR/Cas9 comes in, providing scientists with a better comprehensive ability to understand the factors involved in methotrexate sensitivity. In a July 11 issue of the journal Nature, the report of the findings states that breaking down the histidine is possible by the drug. Histidine is one of the few amino acids that helps constructs protein, and acts as a critical gatekeeper to the drug, keeping cancer cells from spreading.

The discoveries are to contribute to the understanding of the biology of the Cancer chemotherapy drug, and will as well lead to creating a simple dietary supplement that can expand the therapeutic window and can reduce the toxicity.

Naama Kanarek, a postdoc in the laboratory of Sabatini contemplated on how to apply CRISPR/Cas9 screens with methotrexate. She and her colleagues have now derived an enzyme named FTCD that can contribute to the breakdown of histidine.

There are still challenges ahead and the entire team is working to expand upon the initial discoveries with additional preclinical studies. The aim is to pursue clinical trials for assessing the abilities of histidine in improving methotrexate’s effectiveness in human bodies.

Seems like we humans are finally getting somewhere to discover the cure of cancer. Although the road ahead is still long, the Whitehead discoveries can be dubbed as an ideal kick.

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