Scientists think protein is possible answer to cancer
October 18, 2018
The key to combating cancer may have been inside every person all along. While many have most likely never heard of the protein TMEM16A, scientists like Dr. Mark Anderson think that utilizing this protein may be the key to curing cancer.
On Oct. 12, Santa Clara’s chemistry department hosted Dr. Mark Anderson, an associate professor of chemistry at San Francisco State University.
At the talk, Anderson explained how the protein works. There are inhibitors of a protein channel called TMEM16A, which is a calcium activated chloride channel.
According to Anderson, there is a lot of interest among the scientific community in figuring out how to apply the TMEM16A protein toward therapeutic treatment for diseases like cancer.
His study of TMEM16A brings together ideas and processes from a variety of scientific findings.
“The project is the combination of organic chemistry, a little bit of biochemistry and a little bit of cellular biology,” Anderson said.
At the talk, he presented his team’s findings regarding the creation of new compounds that inhibited the production and use of the protein, the potential uses of this study and the possible direction they can take their findings.
While the actual science behind applying Anderson’s research of protein to cure cancer is extremely complex, the plan is to kill the cancer cells by limiting the products of the cell’s growth.
When examining a cancer cell, Anderson explained that a sudden increase in production of the protein TMEM16 occurs.
“If you inhibit this protein it also kills the cancer cells,” he said.
This protein is then broken into two strands: TMEM16A and TMEM16B.
While TMEM16B still plays a role in cancer cell production, less is known about the functionality of this strand of protein. TMEM16A, on the other hand, has become a primary area of focus in Anderson’s lab since scientists have a better grasp and understanding of its operations compared to TMEM16B. .
In theory, this treatment works by quickly stopping the over production of TMEM16A protein, causing the cancer cell effected to eventually weaken, leading to its termination.
A new, more localized treatment could occur in relation to this protein relying on the possible development of this project.
“There is a new target protein found in cancer cells that they are trying to inhibit. And by inhibiting the protein, essentially it kills the cancerous cells,” Santa Clara senior Stewart Allen said regarding the relevance of this study after attending the event. “It’s only effective in certain types of cancer but it’s still significant.”
While the primary focus of Anderson’s talk was about the possible role that the TMEM16A protein could play in the medical field in relation to cancer, there are other illnesses it could be used to target.
Specifically, Anderson said that the A strand of TMEM16 may be used to treat and manage asthma symptoms in the near future.
Anderson said the study of the TMEM16 protein is just beginning and scientists hope to keep discovering new applications of it.
“This could be used on a lot more cancer lines that it demolishes and if we know them then we can study them more,” he said.
The detailed presentation allowed for Santa Clara students to see possible career routes for their studies and showed them the impact their career could have on others.
Anderson said his team will continue to study the TMEM16 protein and hope to discover even more applications for it in the future.
Contact Anthony Alegrete at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.