Potential Anti-Cancer Treatment Method Wins Kaye Award For Hebrew University Chemistry Student

 

Jerusalem, Dec. 19, 2011 – A strategy for inhibiting a protein that is associated with the spread of cancer has won for a Hebrew University of Jerusalem Ph.D. student in chemistry one of this year’s Kaye Innovation Awards at the university.

The innovation developed by Yftah Tal-Gan, a student of Prof. Chaim Gilon and Prof. Alexander Levitzki at the Institute of Chemistry, focuses on the inhibition of Protein Kinase B (PKB, also called Akt). Since the activation of PKB is associated with cancer, selective inhibition of this protein becomes a promising strategy for targeted cancer therapy.

Tal-Gan’s method is based on mimicking the interaction of PKB with other proteins with which it comes into contact. This he accomplished through the use of peptides. Since peptides are built from the same amino acid building blocks as proteins, the peptides can thus be used as protein “mimics.” Peptides, however, lack important pharmacological properties, such as stability.

Through chemical engineering, Tal-Gan managed to convert an active peptide inhibitor of PKB, named PTR6154, into a stable peptide "mimic" (peptidomimetic) that combines biological activity with favorable pharmacological properties.

The peptide could be used as a potential anti-cancer treatment that would operate through inhibiting PKB from performing its role of inducing cancer cell survival and cell division. The outcome is that the cancer cells would become susceptible to death signals and therefore die (unlike untreated cancer cells that are not susceptible to death signals and therefore do not die). The peptidomimetic could also potentially be combined with specific anti-cancer drugs, thus further enhancing the efficacy of the treatment method.

The Kaye Awards were established in 1994 by Isaac Kaye of England, a prominent industrialist in the pharmaceutical industry, to encourage faculty, staff, and students of the university to develop innovative methods and inventions with good commercial potential which will benefit the university and society.