New Way to Target Cancer Cells

Researchers from the University of Arizona Cancer Center have identified a new method of activating specific molecules to target cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.

In their recent study, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Wei Wang, PhD, and his team developed a new strategy called click-release proteolysis targeting chimeras, or crPROTACs, that allows for the activation and release of PROTACs only in cancer cells.

PROTACs are molecules that scientists designed to break down specific proteins in the body. They are now explored as a potential treatment for cancer; however, one of the challenges is that they can be harmful to healthy cells due to uncontrolled protein breakdown.

Wang’s research focuses on an existing metabolic pathway in the human system, the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway, that normally targets proteins for degradation and recycling. Wang’s strategy uses the pathway to specifically target cells at tumor sites, minimizing premature drug activation and unwanted side effects. The researchers found that the crPROTAC strategy successfully degraded proteins of interest in cancer cells.


Mengyang Chang, Feng Gao, Devin Pontigon, Giri Gnawali, Hang Xu, Wei Wang. Bioorthogonal PROTAC Prodrugs Enabled by On-Target Activation. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2023; 145 (25): 14155 DOI: 10.1021/jacs.3c05159

University of Arizona Health Sciences. (2023, September 25). Researchers develop new way to target cancer cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 25, 2023 from

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