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Progress in personalised cancer medicines

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Basic researchers led by Eduard Stefan have further developed this technology in order to be able to predict whether drugs can inhibit certain kinases, whose mutations can trigger cancer. Signalling pathways in human cells can be damaged by mutations in kinases, which act as molecular switches. Frequently the consequences are serious diseases such as cancer. For several years now modern-day medicine has had the means to take targeted action against mutated kinases. In the meantime, more than 60 kinase inhibitors have been approved for clinical applications.

The scientists led by Eduard Stefan of the Department of Biochemistry and the Centre for Molecular Biosciences at the University of Innsbruck have now investigated whether BRAF inhibitors can also have an effect on other tumorous diseases. For this purpose, they used a biosensor technology developed at the University of Innsbruck for which a patent application has been submitted. In this process, the two ends of the kinase protein are fused with two reporter protein fragments and expressed in cells. "If the mutated kinases in the cells are deactivated by the inhibitor, the structure of the kinase changes. In the case of the kinase BRAF, the two ends of the enzyme move closer together, as do the two reporter protein fragments. They interact and increasingly begin to glow in the cell", says Eduard Stefan, talking about the effects of the KinCon biosensor. In this way, the researchers can directly keep track of the pathological function of various ONCO kinases in intact cell populations.

"Such biotechnological approaches pave the way for new concepts in personalised medicine, with which one can hope to find the appropriate medicine for patients", says Eduard Stefan. The biochemist Eduard Stefan now wants to expand the biosensor platform KinCon to other classes of kinases, and thus make a decisive contribution on the search for personalised drugs.

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