Blocking enzymes to stop the spread of cancer

MU researcher's identify molecular compounds that can block dangerous enzymes, stopping the spread of cancer cells throughout the body.

May 28, 2021


Pate McCuien: Enzymes are proteins in our bodies that help accelerate chemical reactions. While most enzymes facilitate our bodies’ natural processes, there are some that play a dangerous role in helping cancer cells spread throughout the body.

Now, researchers at the University of Missouri are working on identifying molecular compounds that can serve as inhibitors to shut down these dangerous enzymes, potentially eliminating the spread of cancer. MU biochemistry professor John Tanner and his team analyzed the molecular structure of PYCR1, one of the enzymes known to play a crucial role in the spread of cancer cells.

Tanner:“So we started on an inhibitor discovery campaign to try and find small molecules that would inhibit these enzymes.”

McCuien: After collaborating with researchers in Belgium, the team identified a compound that was successful in blocking the PYCR1 enzyme, and this foundational research can help scientists better locate other potential cancer-fighting compounds as well.

Tanner: “We look at the way these small molecules interact with the protein and then, based on that information, we are led to molecules that may be better inhibitors, and so we cycle around this loop until we find good ones.”

McCuien: For more on this research and other MU groundbreaking discoveries, visit

I’m Pate McCuien, with a Spotlight on Mizzou.

Learn more about the research here

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