Potential cancer treatment found in malarial protein

Potential cancer treatment in malarial protein
Potential cancer treatment in malarial protein | Courtesy of
Scientists from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) recently joined researchers from Denmark's University of Copenhagen to find that a specific protein in malaria may help stop cancer.

This protein binds to one of the sugar molecules that is present in many kinds of cancer. This could allow anti-cancer drugs to target only tumors in the treatments. The goal of the research was to discover why pregnant women are more susceptible to malaria.

The scientists learned that malaria parasites produce a particular protein, called VAR2CSA, that binds to a specific sugar molecule within the placenta of a pregnant woman.

"Based on our clinical data, we helped validate that this could be applied to melanoma and lung cancers," Nhan Tran, an associate professor in TGen's Cancer and Cell Biology Division and a study author, said. "This specific type of developmental protein -- oncofetal chondroitin sulfate -- is expressed in the placenta, and is also expressed in lung cancer and in melanoma."

The scientists went on to discover that this sugar molecule, oncofetal chondroitin sulfate, is in many kinds of cancer. Using VAR2CSA as a carrier, they may eventually be able to deliver drugs to cancer tumors.

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