MONDAY, July 7 (HealthDay News) -- A molecule that uses a cellular recycling process called autophagy to kill cancer cells has been identified by Stanford University researchers.
Autophagy is normally used by cells to conserve resources during times of stress.
"Increasing evidence implicates a role for autophagy in cancer, but it is not well understood how cellular and environmental cues drive authophagic cells down survival or death pathways," study senior author Dr. Amato J. Giaccia said in a prepared statement.
In this study, Giaccia and his colleagues focused on renal cell carcinoma (RCC), the most common form of kidney cancer. In most cases, RCC is caused by a mutation of the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor gene and often fails to respond to treatment.
"Since RCCs have a poor prognosis and are refractory to standard chemotherapy, there is a need to develop new therapies for kidney cancer," Giaccia said.
The researchers searched for molecules that could destroy VHL-deficient kidney cancer and identified a molecule called STF-62247, which enhanced autophagy in VHL-deficient cells. The molecule didn't affect cells with normal VHL.
"We have found a small molecule that selectively induces cell death in VHL-deficient cells, such as those that are found in kidney cancer. This represents a paradigm shift for targeted therapy," Giaccia said.
The study was to be published in the July 8 issue of the journal Cancer Cell.
The American Cancer Society has more about kidney cancer.
SOURCE: Cell Press, news release, July 7, 2008