Discovery may boost efforts to fight cancer
A NEW family of molecules that stop cancer cells covering themselves with sugar could prevent the spread of tumours, scientists have learned.
The same drugs might be able to control infectious bugs, which also need a sugar coating.
Many biological cells, including cancer cells and bacteria, use sugar particles to communicate with their environment and each other.
To form the complex chains and branched structures that decorate their surfaces, the cells have to join separate sugar building blocks together. For this they rely on enzymes called glycosyltransferases.
The new molecules, known as synthetic UDP-galactose derivatives, are shaped in such a way that they block these enzymes and stop the sugar structures forming. Scientists believe they have the potential to disrupt harmful processes such as cancer metastasis -- or spread -- and bacterial infection.
Lead researcher Dr Gerd Wagner, from the University of East Anglia, said: "This exciting discovery has considerable therapeutic potential in cancer, inflammation and infection.
The findings are reported today in the journal 'Nature Chemical Biology'.