In an example of scientific serendipity, researchers at North Carolina State University, USA, have found that a compound useful for studying the origins of intestinal birth defects may also inhibit the growth and spread of cancerous tumors.
Developed by Alex Deiters and team, the compound induces heterotaxia, a disordering or mirror-image inversion of internal organs in frog embryos. The compound is a novel pyridine analog, named heterotaxin after the condition it causes. In studies to determine the cause of these mutations, Nanette Nascone-Yoder and co-workers found that the compound also prevents normal blood-vessel formation and prevents cells from migrating by increasing cellular adhesion.
The pathway most likely to be affected by heterotaxin was the TGF-beta pathway. TGF-beta is known to play a role in the progression of cancerous tumors from normal to metastatic. This makes it a promising lead compound for preventing cancer metastasis.
- Heterotaxin: a novel TGF-β signaling inhibitor identified in a multi-phenotype profiling screen in Xenopus embryos
M. K. Dush, A. L. McIver, M. A. Parr, D. D. Young, J. Fisher et al.,
Chem. Biol. 2011, 18(2), 252-263.