South Korean scientists said Sunday they have discovered an enzyme capable of suppressing growth of both solid tumors and blood cancers, opening up the possibility of treating the potentially fatal disease.
A research team led by An Sung-kwan, a microbial engineering professor at Seoul’s Konkuk University, said the Mulan E3 ligase effectively deals with the Akt protein, kinase which plays a key role in the growth and spread cancer in the body.
“The Mulan enzyme has been found to act as a powerful dissolver of Akt by utilizing the mitochondria in cells,” the team said.
Mitochondria are “cellular power plants” that control cell differentiation, cell death, and cell growth.
The discovery is noteworthy because the close connection between Akt and cancer has been known since the late 1990s, although efforts to regulate the gene have failed to make headway so far. An overactive Akt is directly linked to cancer growth and also builds tolerance for chemotherapy.
The Konkuk team added that because Mulan can regulate the Akt, further development could lead to a way to combat solid tumors of lung, breast and uterine cancers, as well as blood cancer like lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, which funded the project, said the Mulan discovery is a meaningful step forward and expands the sphere of anti-cancer treatment.
The discovery has been featured in the latest online issue of the influential Cell Research journal published by Nature magazine.