The path to drug development is strewn with obstacles: Identifying targets; configuring assays to help identify targets or drugs; uncovering the right compound to affect the selected target without off-target effects and screening multiple compounds to eliminate or identify potential drugs. Without the right tools, compounds or target, identifying potential disease therapies becomes nearly impossible.
When it comes to a drug target for cancer, the Ras protein family is at the top of the list because the proteins are expressed ubiquitiously and found mutated in many types of cancer. Because Ras proteins are involved in transducing signals from the surface of cells, many of the resulting mutations produce an activated Ras, inducing uncontrolled expression of the genes that Ras controls. Ras proteins are small GTPases (20–25kDa) that comprise a larger superfamily of proteins divided into five subfamilies: Ras, Rho, Rab, Arf, and Ran. These proteins control diverse cellular activities, including cellular differentiation, proliferation, cell division, nuclear import and export, and vesicle transport. GTPases are guanosine-nucleotide-binding proteins with affinity for GDP or GTP and are able to hydrolyze GTP. When bound to GTP, GTPases are active (turned on) and interact with downstream proteins in the signaling cascade. When GTPases are bound to GDP, the proteins are inactivated (turned off) and no longer transduce signals. Continue reading