Potential Cancer Therapy: Vitamin D Linked DNA Molecules

Asian Scientist Magazine (Jun. 23, 2022) – Cancer has plagued human beings throughout history – with the oldest description of cancer dating back to 3000 BC in Egypt. It killed nearly 10 million people globally in 2020 alone. Over the years, with the development of treatments like chemotherapy, scientists have discovered that treating cancer is a multi-pronged approach that targets different steps of the cancer development process.

In a study published on ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, principal investigator Madhu Biyani and her team from Kanazawa University discovered Apt-7 – a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) molecule that can bind to other molecules and exert an anti-cancer effect. Apt-7 inhibits the enzyme CYP24. CYP24 is essentially a small protein that speeds up vitamin D3 breakdown.

Earlier research has shown that vitamin D3, which helps build strong bones, also exhibits anticancer properties. High levels of vitamin D3 are correlated with stronger recovery in cancer patients.

Vitamin D has been identified as a potential target for cancer therapy precisely because of its involvement in cancer development and progression. Evidence-based studies have shown that cancer cells use vitamin D in a different way from healthy cells. Preventing vitamin D from being broken down can help to slow down tumor growth. In addition, lower CYP24 enzyme activity levels are also crucial in the killing of cancer cells.

As such, much focus has been placed on developing molecules that either inhibit CYP24 or resemble vitamin D3 as a potential strategy to beat cancer. Unfortunately, these developments are hindered by poor efficacy and undesirable side effects.

In the study, the team examined 18 different DNA molecules and shortlisted Apt-7, the sole candidate molecule that only binds to CYP24 specifically and does not inhibit CYP271B that produces vitamin D3. Upon selection, two sets of experimental simulations were conducted to check relative levels of vitamin D3. Each stimulation consisted of vitamin D3 and CYP24 in either the presence or absence of Apt-7. As expected, the stimulation with Apt-7 showed higher levels of vitamin D3. The team verified the results by monitoring high-end microscopic images that track the surface of CYP24 to determine whether Apt-7 is bound to CYP24.

Apt-7 “could be a promising lead candidate for anticancer therapy”, says Assistant Professor Biyani from the WPI Nano Life Science Institute at Kanazawa University.

In the last step, the team evaluated the anti-cancer properties of Apt-7 by introducing the molecule into cancer cells. These cancer cells produce excessive amounts of CYP24. True to their claim, the presence of Apt-7 significantly lowered CYP24 activity levels.

Fighting cancer can be an uphill battle, given that cancer is a multifaceted disease arising from different cells which can develop resistance, or worse still, can be notoriously difficult to kill. To combat this, there is a need to develop strategies that target different aspects of cancer development and progression.

Following this discovery, Madhu Biyani and her team are optimistic that Apt-7 has the potential to be formally introduced as a new option for cancer therapy.


Source: Kanazawa University; Photo: Unsplash

The article can be found at Using a Liquid Amine – Solid Carbamic Acid Phase-Separation System Using Diamines Bearing an Aminocyclohexyl Group.

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