A new area of study could offer unprecedented solutions in the fight against cancer, namely that of attempting to unhinge the circadian rhythms of diseased cells (circadian cycles are the “internal clock” of organisms, but also of individual cells). This is suggested in a study published in the journal Science Advances by researchers from Nagoya University’s Institute of Transformative BioMolecules (Japan) and the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience of the University of Southern California, who attempted to make one of the typical characteristics of tumours turn against itself: its ability to change the rhythms of the “host” organism, based on its own growth requirements. It has been known for some time, in fact, that tumours seriously alter the performance of normal functions that are regulated on the basis of circadian rhythms (including, in humans, the sleep/wake cycle). This is because their metabolism is much faster than that of healthy cells and works differently from that of non-diseased tissue.
The researchers used an experimental molecule called GO289, which specifically targets an enzyme (CK2) that plays an important role in circadian cycles and in the activity of four proteins that are fundamental for cell growth and survival, and hence managed to interfere with the lifespan of cancer cells. In laboratory tests conducted on osteosarcoma cells (bone cancer cells), it was discovered that the GO289 molecule slowed down the cancer cells’ circadian clock, without changing the cycles of healthy cells, which prevented the tumour from growing and metastasizing. The exact same effects have also been observed in renal cell carcinoma, another demonstration of the importance of regulating circadian rhythms, which also supports the idea that the same mechanism can be used, in the future, against other types of cancer cells.