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New cancer treatment

05 Jul, 2012

Victoria University is investigating a new form of cancer treatment using evolved enzymes.

Listen to audio: New cancer treatment

Duration: 15:50

Creating useful enzymes

David Ackerley, a microbiologist at Victoria University, uses bacteria as biofactories to create enzymes of interest. Enzymes are proteins that catalyse chemical reactions in cells, but the ideal enzyme for a particular use cannot always be found in nature. Using a process known as ‘directed evolution’, it is possible to develop enzymes with specific functions, which have never existed in nature.

Enzymes for cancer treatment

In David’s lab, they have devised a way of manipulating bacterial genetic material to produce new enzymes with specific functions. Using this directed evolution, they are developing an enzyme that can activate prodrugs to treat cancer.

The treatment will involve first administering a prodrug, then giving the enzyme to the patient in a viral vector. The viral vector delivers the enzyme only to cancer cells where it activates the prodrug. Because the viral vector is specific for cancer cells, healthy cells are unharmed.

In this programme, David Ackerley explains his research to Ruth Beran.

Programme details: Our Changing World

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