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30.01.2024 | כ שבט התשפד

Preventing Cancer by Neutralizing Herpes

Prof. Meir Shamay of the BIU Azrieli Faculty of Medicine and his group unravel protein interactions for cancer prevention

מחקר סרטן

Prof. Meir Shamay of the Bar-Ilan University Azrieli Faculty of Medicine, founder of the Viral Oncology Lab at Bar-Ilan University, and his research group, have uncovered a crucial protein interaction essential for the survival of the Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) in human cells. Disrupting this protein interaction could prevent the development of cancer caused by the virus. The research team, backed by a research grant, explores the relationship between these proteins with the goal of creating a foundation for anti-cancer drug development.

In Prof. Shamay's laboratory, researchers study viruses linked to human tumors, specifically focusing on KSHV. The herpes virus is associated with the development of various cancer types, including Primary Effusion Lymphoma, which is rare and aggressive. The goal of the research is to develop drugs targeting cells infected with the herpes virus. The team has recently developed a method to precisely answer the question of which protein recruits another protein in the formation of an active complex, a process crucial in biological systems.

Applying the new method to the essential viral protein LANA, researchers found that the cellular protein MeCP2 binds to DNA and recruits LANA. Understanding this mechanism suggests that to preserve the viral genome in infected cells, LANA relies on MeCP2. Indeed, they found that the virus fails to maintain its genome in cells with a mutation in the MeCP2 protein. Therefore, disrupting the ability of MeCP2 to recruit LANA could potentially heal cells from the virus and prevent cancer development.

In the proposed project, Prof. Shamay's research team will use their developed method to find drugs that disrupt the connection between MeCP2 and LANA, preventing the virus from persisting in infected cells and consequently inhibiting cancer development. Success in this project could contribute to the development of similar drugs preventing the development of various virus-related cancers.

Prof. Shamay received a $60,000 annual grant from the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) to support this research.