A new study reveals that a protein present in higher amounts in bats compared to humans may contribute to their low cancer incidence.
Researchers from Duke-NUS Medical School have uncovered a potential mechanism behind cancer suppression in bats that may lead to future therapies for human cancers. The research shows that bat cells accumulate fewer toxic chemicals than human cells, where these chemicals are moved out of the system mediated by a cell surface pump protein, known as ABCB1, that is more abundant and widely distributed in bat tissue than in humans.
Uncovering novel anti-cancer mechanisms would fill current knowledge gaps and help meet the need for efficient cancer treatments with acceptable side effects.
Bats are unusual mammals with the ability to fly and have long lifespans. In addition, bats have a low incidence of cancer, but the reason for this has so far remained unclear.
The researchers discovered that ABCB1, an important protein that pumps many foreign substances out of cells, is present in significantly larger amounts in various types of cells derived from bats compared to those from humans. Furthermore, decreased drug accumulation in cells due to greater amounts of ABCB1 was found across multiple bat species. The investigations also provided evidence that blocking ABCB1 in bat cells triggered the accumulation of toxic chemicals, causing DNA damage and cell death.
Drug resistance arising from chemotherapy is still one of the main reasons for cancer recurrence and patient death. Tumors acquire elevated amounts of the ABCB1 protein in response to prolonged chemotherapy, which is one of the major causes of drug resistance. The research team is currently working on developing more effective and less toxic drugs for ABCB1, which could be used to overcome drug resistance in human cancer.
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