News FocusCancer Research

Potential Target Found for Antimetastasis Drugs

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Science  02 Jul 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5424, pp. 33-34
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5424.33

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Summary

In the July issue of Nature Medicine, researchers report that they have finally cloned the gene for the enzyme heparanase, which helps cancer cells escape to new sites in the body and may thus be a good target for anticancer drugs. In previous work, researchers had cloned several genes for the enzymes, called proteases, that cancer cells use to break down the protein portion of the extracellular matrix, the glue that holds cells together in tissues, and the basement membranes that surround the blood vessels. Although metastasizing cancer cells may produce as many as 15 different matrix-digesting proteases, the new work suggests that there is only one heparanase. Thus, if its activity can be inhibited--and indications are that it can be--other heparanases shouldn't be around to cover for it.