Scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in the UK have found that inhibition of the cyclin G associated kinase (GAK) protein has the potential to allow treatment of different types of cancer.

GAK is known to be utilised by the cancer cells to continue division and growth, and its blockade is expected to result in the death of tumours having faulty versions of the FBXW7 gene.

FBXW7 is conventionally used by the cancer cells to regulate cellular proliferation and pro-survival pathways, chromosomal stability, metabolism and cell cycle regulation.

During their latest research, the team found that in the case of faulty FBXW7, the cells rely on GAK to maintain cellular functions.

“During their latest research, the team found that in the case of faulty FBXW7, the cells rely on GAK to maintain cellular functions.”

The researchers systematically removed genes from the cells of bowel and breast cancers lacking FBXW7, while seeking genes that would aid in the cell survival and could be a potential target for future drugs.

They observed that removal of GAK led to the death of 85%-90% cells with a faulty FBXW7 in two weeks. The study further revealed survival of more than 90% tumours with functioning copies of the gene.

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Based on these findings, the scientists expect that development of GAK-targeting drugs could be effective for cancers with FBXW7 mutations, including those of bile duct, colon, breast and stomach.

Drugs that target GAK would only kill cells with faulty FBXW7 and avoid impact on healthy cells, resulting in decreased side effects when compared with other chemotherapies.