Map of protein systems reveals new targets for cancer treatment

Researchers at the UCSF Quantitative Biosciences Institute (QBI) and UC San Diego have mapped previously unknown interactions between hundreds of proteins that drive cancer, unveiling potential new drug targets. The findings, announced in a trio of papers published in Science on October 1, detailed a new approach for tackling cancer and applied that approach to breast cancer and cancers of the head and neck.

The studies were conducted by scientists in QBI’s Cancer Cell Map Initiative (CCMI), an ongoing collaboration between researchers at UCSF and UCSD. QBI is an organized research unit in the UCSF School of Pharmacy.

Across the three publications, 395 protein systems were flagged for involvement in 13 cancer types. Many of these systems had not been previously described or linked to cancer mutations. The researchers also identified a subset of these protein systems as biomarkers of cancer outcomes, leading to 548 genes that could be used in clinical sequencing panels.

“We realized we need another way to look at cancer that takes it a step beyond DNA,” said Nevan Krogan, PhD, director of QBI. “Our studies provide a new definition of biomarkers based not on single genes or proteins but on the large, multi-protein complexes.”

Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, moderates a discussion between UCSF’s Nevan Krogan, PhD, and UC San Diego’s Trey Ideker, PhD, who led the recent efforts to map the protein systems that drive cancer.


Looking Beyond DNA to See Cancer with New Clarity (UCSF News)


School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, PharmD Degree Program

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