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YCR Researchers brew up an understanding of new cancer drugs using yeast


YCR-funded research from a project led by Professor Piper at Sheffield University, published last month has unravelled what happens inside cells when a pair of chemotherapy drugs are used together.


What drugs were under examination?

“Hsp90-inhibitor” drugs are being developed as a drug to fight cancers, including lung cancer which is particularly common in Yorkshire. However, these drugs are not as effective as they could be; this is because cancer cells turn on their defences in response to the drug. A second drug called “Rapamycin” can be used to turn off these protective responses of cancer cells by blocking the signals that tell the cell to turn on their defences. This means that the combination of both drugs together can be more effective than either alone. Researchers from Sheffield have investigated the effects of these drugs by using yeast cells.


Why are researchers looking in yeast not humans?

Humans share around a quarter of our genes with yeast, and so it is possible to use yeast to learn about our own bodies. We both evolved from a common ancestor that lived over a billion years ago, and through all that time many of the vitally important jobs in our cells have remained the same (for example, we make our DNA by exactly the same process). Yeast can be tested to understand how these processes work. This is obviously much safer and more ethical than using humans, which might be dangerous. And doing experiments using yeast cells is much cheaper and easier as they are very convenient to use in the lab. By doing this research in yeast the researchers were able to discover how these drugs block the defence signals, which provides information to help to guide the treatment of people.



Caption: Yeast provide a powerful tool for understanding how cells work


How far are we from treatment?

This is a basic-level study looking at what happens in the cell, so it is not directly relevant in the clinic in itself yet. However, clinical trials of both Rapamycin and Hsp90-inhibitors are in progress, and this research informs that work ”“ telling researchers what is happening inside the cells and giving clues as to what the best treatments will be. There is now good evidence to suggest clinical trials using the two drugs together will be successful.


Paper can be accessed for free at : the journal, Oncotarget

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