Calcium molecule linked to aggressive cancer, imaging technique shows

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New research shows a particular calcium molecule is linked to aggressive cancers when it stops regulating itself properly, and researchers at Columbia University Medical Center are looking for ways to fix it, according to a recent report.

The molecules, part of a family called transient receptor potential channels, are proteins that line surfaces of the body, such as intestines, and help calcium permeate cells.

The specific molecule linked to cancer is TRPV6. Many TRPV6 molecules are found in tumor cells and patients who have higher quantities of it also seem to have more aggressive forms of cancer.

To find out how transient receptor potential channels guide calcium into the cell and how it can form diseases, Alexander Sobolevsky, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Columbia University Medical Center, and his team are using a technique called x-ray crystallography. The process allows them to map out a 3D model of the protein.

"In [the] future, we could use this model to design drugs that can target some types of tumor cells by plugging up TRP channels on their surfaces," Sobolevsky said in a statement.