The chemical called candidaspongiolide (CAN) stalls protein synthesis and also kills cancer cells by triggering caspase 12-dependent programmed cell death.
Previous studies have shown that CAN preferentially killed glioma and melanoma cells in vitro, but its mechanism was unknown.
In the new study led by Giovanni Melillo, M.D., of the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Md, the researchers used molecular and cell assays to uncover the mechanism by which CAN kills cancer cells in vitro.
The researchers found that CAN halt protein synthesis in both normal and cancer cells but does not kill normal cells at dosages that trigger cell death in the malignant cells.
The chemical induces cell death by activating caspase 12 by an unusual biochemical pathway.
However, the investigators concluded that further tests with CAN are warranted in vitro and in animal models, which would provide greater insights in its mechanism.