This discovery works on the known principle that involves the activation of the body's many defenses, to check the abnormal growth of cells; the way to achieve this is to get the faulty cells to kill themselves. This natural process, termed as apoptosis, involves he role of a protein called procaspase-3. When triggered, procaspase-3 changes into an enzyme called caspase-3, that causes the cells to die.
During cancer, this mechanism in the body is rendered defective, which is why the abnormal growth of cells carries on unchecked. Often the cancers are pretty strong to combat the natural defense forces in the body, and are stronger than the chemotherapy drugs.
But Paul Hergenrother, a chemist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has discovered a method to get the natural biological process, to go on unimpeded, which is to have a synthetic molecule that actually triggers apoptosis. For this, the team scrutinized 20,000 different compounds that portrayed the abilities to change procaspase-3 into caspase-3. This potent molecule was termed as PAC -1
PAC-1 was found to be able to obliterate many types of cancer cells, but its efficacy was based upon the levels of procaspase-3 in the body.
Quoting the words of Prof Hergenrother, "As such, the potential effectiveness of a compound such as PAC-1 could be assessed ... with a high degree of accuracy, and people with cancer could be pre-selected for treatment with a procaspase-3 activator based on the concentration of procaspase-3 in their tumor cells."