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The new compound (orange) binds to the EGF protein (green) and prevents it from binding to its receptor EGFR.

IRB researchers identify compounds that may open new paths to treat cancer

The Peptides and Proteins Research Lab  led by Dr. Ernest Giralt at the Institut de Recerca Biomèdica (IRB Barcelona) started three years ago to design compounds which prevented the binding between the Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) protein and its  EGFR receptor. The interaction between these two proteins accelerates the metabolism of tumor cells in order for them to grow and divide faster.

At present, there is a monoclonal antibody  used in chemotherapy that interferes with the EGFR receptor preventing coupling to the EGF protein. However, tumor cells fail to generate resistance and treatment stops being effective in many cancer patients. There is nothing on the market that attacks EGF, and, in their quest for a compound, IRB Barcelona scientists have made a first step towards solving this problem. In a study of cancer cells in vitro, investigators present a number of peptides, small proteins, which bind to the EGF protein, thereby preventing interaction with its receptor.

“Through this study we have been able to show that the said protein is very elusive and promiscuous in the forms it takes. It is a viable target for targeted drug therapy. It should also be noted that we still do not have compounds that are powerful enough that would enable us to run studies on animal models. But we taken the first step and have opened a new path”, says Ernest Giralt, head of the laboratory and co-leader of the study, together with Laura Nevola, associate researcher at his lab.  


More information at IRB Barcelona website.