A natural component found in marine sponges has the potential to treat cancer, say researchers.
Lead researcher Daniel Romo, a Texas A and M chemistry professor has identified a mechanism related to Pateamine A (PatA) that might make it a potential anti-cancer agent.
The PatA has been found to inhibit a key pathway in the cell that degrades damaged and not fully functional mRNA. It is called NMD or nonsense-mediated mRNA decay.
Messenger RNA (mRNA) copies messages from genes on DNA and uses these messages to produce proteins, and the human body functions well only with the right types and amount of proteins.
NMD watches inside the body 24 hours a day, and whenever damaged mRNA is found, it attaches a "bad-mRNA" tag on it and signals to destroy it.
"We found that PatA and a simplified, easier to synthesize derivative of PatA called desmethyl,desamino-PatA (DMDAPatA) inhibit NMD," said Romo.
"This may contribute to the apoptosis (suicide) of tumor cells," he added.
PatA inhibits the initiation phase of protein synthesis, which gives it the potential to fight cancer.
"Tumor cells are more actively producing new proteins than normal cells, so tumor cells are hundreds if not thousands of times more vulnerable to DMDAPatA's inhibition of protein synthesis, which makes DMDAPatA a good candidate as an anti-cancer agent.
"DMDAPatA is structurally simpler than PatA but exhibits similar activity in inhibiting NMD and protein synthesis.
"It has been patented by Texas A and M, evaluated by two pharmaceutical companies, and continues to be evaluated as a potential anti-cancer agent for both human and animal (pet) applications," he added.
The study is published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.