Through the INBT website, Johns Hopkins University cancer researchers Anirban Maitra and James R. Eshleman in the Department of Pathology found Marc Ostermeier in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Ostermeier’s group creates molecular switches by joining two unrelated proteins in which one biochemical partner controls the activity of the other. The team is now synthesizing new protein switches that recognize cancer cells. When these molecular switches identify the cancer cells, a therapeutic function is then activated. While this new approach is far from clinical trials, it represents a promising new approach for targeting cancer cells. The team recently submitted a proposal entitled Selective Prodrug Activation in Cancer Cells using Molecular Switches to the American Cancer Society.
Protein switches can be created by combining a ligand-binding protein (green) and an enzyme (red) to create a protein switch whose catalytic activity is activated only in the presence of the ligand (square).