Selective Destruction of Tumor Cells through Specific Inhibition of Products Resulting from Chromosomal Translocations
P. A. Perez-Mancera,
A key problem in the effective treatment of patients with cancer (both leukemia and solid tumors) is to distinguish between tumor and normal cells. This problem is the main reason why current treatments for cancer are often ineffective. There have been remarkable advances in our understanding of the molecular biology of cancer that provides new selective tumor destruction mechanisms. The molecular characterization of the tumorspecific chromosomal abnormalities has revealed that fusion proteins are the consequence in the majority of cancers. These fusion proteins result from chimeric genes created by the translocations, which form chimeric mRNA species that contain exons from the genes involved in the translocation. Obviously, these chimeric molecules are attractive therapeutic targets since they are unique to the disease (they only exist in the tumor cells but not in the normal cells of the patient), allowing the design of specific anti-tumor drugs. Inhibition of chimeric gene expression by anti-tumor agents specifically kills leukemic cells without affecting normal cells. As therapeutic agents targeting chimeric genes, zinc-finger proteins, antisense RNAs or hammerhead-based ribozymes have been used. All of these agents have some limitations, indicating that new therapeutic tools are required as gene inactivating agents that should be able to inhibit any chimeric fusion gene product. Recently, we have used the catalytic RNA subunit of RNase P from Escherichia coli, which can be specifically directed to cut any mRNA sequence, to specifically destroy tumor-specific fusion genes created as a result of chromosomal translocations. In this chapter, we will review the advances made to selectively destroy tumor cells through specific inhibition of products resulting from chromosomal translocations.
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