A breakthrough in research could pave the way for new anti-cancer drugs, according to scientists.
The protein MDM2 can become a cancer-promoting agent
Experts at Edinburgh University have identified the way a specific cell protein triggers the spread of cancer.
A biochemical imbalance causes the protein, MDM2, to activate the destruction of the key cancer-preventing protein p53.
The scientists said that new drugs could be designed to help prevent MDM2 acting as a cancer-promoting agent.
Lead investigator Dr Kathryn Ball said the study, which is funded by Cancer Research UK, had also identified a possible template for new drugs.
"We have identified protein fragments which can bind to MDM2, inhibiting its activity," she said.
"These fragments could be a good template for drugs designed to hinder the role of MDM2 in the p53 destruction pathway."
Prof John Toy, medical director at Cancer Research UK, welcomed the findings.
He said: "P53 is a crucial protein that acts as a guardian of the normal cell.
"Its failure to do its job properly is associated with many types of cancer.
"If p53 is being destroyed by another protein in a cancer cell, then it offers an excellent target when designing new anti-cancer drugs.
"This research suggests MDM2 is just such a target."
The study is published in the 21 July edition of Molecular Cell.