A California research team has mapped an entire group of human enzymes, providing important information for the development of a new generation of drugs to treat cancer and other diseases. The findings will be published in the Dec. 6 issue of Science.
In the study, the team from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the biotechnology company SUGEN created a detailed catalog of the 518 protein kinase genes encoded by the human genome. Protein kinases are among the most important regulators of cell behavior. By chemically adding phosphate groups to other proteins, they control the activity of up to 30 percent of all cellular proteins, and are involved in almost all cellular functions. They are especially important in sending signals between and within cells, and in orchestrating complex functions such as cell division. Overactive kinases are the cause of some types of cancer, and the central role of kinases in controlling cell behavior has led to their being investigated as targets for treatment of a variety of other diseases, including diabetes, osteoporosis, inflammation and occular diseases.
Scientists in academia and pharmaceutical companies have intensively studied the role of kinases in basic biology and in disease for many years, and several drugs targeting kinases are under development. These drugs may offer an alternative treatment to standard chemotherapy for the treatment of specific kinds of cancer. The recently approved anti-cancer drug Gleevec™, which is proving successful in treating chronic myeloid leukemia, is the first example of a small molecule kinase inhibitor drug of this sort.
Robert Bradford | EurekAlert!
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