In a study published online May 28 in the journal Nature Communications, Ahn and his colleagues at UT Southwestern Medical Center describe the rational design of the molecule, as well as laboratory tests that show its effectiveness at blocking the cancer-promoting function of proteins called androgen receptors.
Androgen receptors are found inside cells and have complex surfaces with multiple "docking points" where various proteins can bind to the receptor. Each docking point has a unique shape, so only a correctly shaped molecule will fit.
Androgen hormones, such as testosterone, are the primary molecules that bind to androgen receptors. Such binding sets off a chain of events that activates several different processes in the human body, including stimulating the development and maintenance of male characteristics.
Using computer-assisted molecular modeling, Ahn designed a helix-mimicking small molecule that fits precisely into a pocket on the androgen receptor that is associated with prostate cancer. Collaborating with senior study author Dr. Ganesh Raj, associate professor of urology at UT Southwestern and a specialist in treating urologic cancers, the researchers tested the compound in animal and isolated human tissue. Without exhibiting noticeable toxicity, the compound prevented the androgen receptor from recruiting its protein partners and it blocked the growth of prostate cancer cells."We have shown that our molecule binds very tightly, targeting the androgen receptor with very high affinity," Ahn said. "We also have confirmed that it inhibits androgen function in these cells, which is a promising finding for drug development. We showed that it does work through these mechanisms, and it is as effective in inhibiting the proliferation of prostate cancer cells as other compounds currently in clinical trials."
Amanda Siegfried | EurekAlert!
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