3D modeling helps to scientists understand why some anti-cancer drugs fail
Some anti-cancer drugs fail because of a natural human protein, P-glycoprotein, that sits in the membrane surface of human cells. The job of P-glycoprotein is to pump toxins out of the cell. That’s good, in most cases. The trouble is that cancer cells see anti-cancer drugs as toxins and pump them out of the cell, too. This toxin-pumping effect means that the cancer cell survives rather than being killed by the anti-cancer drug.
So, the question is, can scientists find a way to disrupt or inhibit that pump? That way, the cancer cell would stop pumping out the anti-cancer drug and the drug would gets a chance to kill the cancer cell.
3D modeling is helping scientists at Southern Methodist University find compounds that could act as effective inhibitors of the pump. Having a dynamic, moving digital model of P-glycoprotein lets scientists see the pump in action, see how drugs move into and out of the cell, and how the pump could be inhibited.
Before 3D modeling, the scientists were looking at static 2D images. Now with 3D modeling, “it’s like watching how a motor works while it moves,” says SMU biochemist Dr. John G. Wise, which is much easier than trying to deduce how a motor moves based on viewing only two or three snapshots.