Researchers had identified a small molecule that inhibits the heat shock protein HSP70. They also demonstrated in their animal experiment that the HSP inhibitor could stop tumor formation and significantly extend survival.
The Philadelphia-based group showed that the inhibitor, called PES, interacted with HSP70 by blocking its stress-relieving functions. It also induces HSP70-dependent cell death by disrupting the cell’s ability to remove damaged components (Mol Cell 9:15-27, 2009).
The research was conducted by Donna George, PhD, associate professor of genetics, and Julie Leu, PhD, assistant professor of genetics, both at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, in collaboration with the lab of Maureen Murphy, PhD, at Fox Chase Cancer Center.
PES seems to be specifically targeting HSP70, according to Dr. George. While studies in humans are still needed, “the exciting part is that this is a pathway and a protein target that clearly is important for cancer cells,” she said.