The cell division accelerator prevents the tumor cells from distributing the chromosomes correctly.

Researchers at the London Cancer Institute suggest an article in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics as an anti-cancer agent, a substance that accelerates the division of cancer cells. And this seems nonsense – we know that cancer cells are dangerous just because of their uncontrolled division, why even accelerate them? But in fact, as experiments with cell cultures and diseased mice have shown, a cell division stimulator called BOS172722 really kills cancer cells.

Breast Cancer Cell (Photo: Wellcome Images / Flickr.com)

Any dividing cell, including cancer, must precisely divide its chromosomes in half. Before division, all chromosomes are doubled, and one copy must go into each daughter cell. If an error occurs somewhere, and, say, an extra sixth chromosome appears in one cell, and the same sixth one is missing, then both cells face serious problems: one will not have any genes at all, and the other the same genes will have extra copies that will also work, and excessive gene activity is almost as dangerous as their complete absence. (There may be another kind of error in the distribution of chromosomes: a chromosome is literally torn between two cells.)

Due to such abnormalities, normal cells often become cancerous. But for the cancer cells themselves in the division it is important to observe some decency, just for their own safety. Of course, they owe their existence to a variety of mutations, but even a cancerous cell cannot withstand too strong a genetic mess. Therefore, if we severely disrupt the mechanism that monitors the distribution of chromosomes across daughter cancer cells, we can probably stop the tumor.

Chromosomes diverge along daughter cells using a special structure called the division spindle: from the poles of the cell to its “equator”, protein strands stretch, which attach to the chromosomes and begin to drag them to the poles. Obviously, these protein strands must be attached very accurately, not confuse the chromosomes, not pull one chromosome in both directions at once, etc.

The quality of the fission spindle is checked by special proteins, among which there is the enzyme MPS1. The substance BOS172722, accelerating the division, just this enzyme and blocks. As a result, the cells divide not 52 minutes, as usual, but only 11: since the checking protein does not work, it does not cause the spindle to reassemble due to connection errors, the spindle forms somehow, and as a result colossal chromosomal abnormalities appear in the cells that are incompatible with life. In experiments, the fission accelerator effectively destroyed lung and ovarian cancer cells, as well as cells of triple negative breast cancer, which is resistant to many other types of therapy.

In fact, the idea to act on the mechanism of chromosome distribution is not new, and there is a whole class of drugs called taxanes that act on this mechanism and which are used against triple negative breast cancer. Such drugs act differently – they do not accelerate, but stop cell division, and such a stop signal leads to cell death. However, cancer cells often have resistance to taxanes.

If, together with one of the taxanes called paclitaxel, the division accelerator BOS172722 was used, then cells of triple negative breast cancer died absolutely everything, whereas if they were treated with paclitaxel alone, 40% of the cells survived. Sick mice tolerated a new drug that completely relieved them of the tumor.

It is unlikely that the authors of the work managed to create a cure for all types of cancer, but even if it can get rid of at least some types of tumors, it will be very good. It is hoped that the already begun clinical trials of the anti-cancer cell division accelerator will be successful.

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