University of East AngliaScientists from all over the world work very hard to effectively treat this incapacitating and deadly disease known as cancer. On the road to develop one such therapy, a set of scientists headed by the University of East Anglia (UEA) has seemingly found a brand new group of molecules. This may aid in combating the spread of cancer and other diseases.

The new molecules are claimed to be synthetic derivatives of a natural product called UDP-Galactose and obstruct the activity of a group of enzymes named glycosyltransferases. Glycosyltransferases are believed to be used by biological cells to convert simple sugars into extended sugar chains and branched structures.

The discoveries could result in noteworthy therapeutic progress in the treatment of cancer, inflammation and infection. Several biological cells counting cancer cells and bacterial cells are said to be accurately covered by a coating of sugar. This sugar coating may impact the way cells interact with their environment and with each other.

Lead author Dr Gerd Wagner of UEA, commented, “This exciting discovery of a potent enzyme inhibitor with a completely new mechanism of action has considerable therapeutic potential in cancer, inflammation and infection.”

The expert added, “Our results also provide a general strategy for how to design and improve such inhibitors in the future. The ‘snapshots’ we have taken of one of these enzymes, together with the new inhibitor itself, can provide very valuable guidance for the development of new anti-cancer and anti-infective drug candidates.”

For instance, when a cancer transmits through the body or a bacterium penetrates its human host, several of the contacts the rogue cells make with other cells are supposedly via these sugars on their cell surface. To develop the complex sugar structures that adorn their surface, cells depend on gylcosyltransferases to attach individual sugar building blocks together.

The UEA study authors have discovered that synthetic UDP-Galactose derivatives obstruct these enzymes efficiently. These molecules can thus likely be used to obstruct with injurious biological processes like cancer metastasis and bacterial infection.

The study was published online by the Journal Nature Chemical Biology.