A striking brain presence: Neurons throughout the mouse brain produce Brd4, a protein targeted by some new cancer drugs. In this cross-section of a mouse brain, Brd4-producing cells are stained red but appear purple against a blue stain that labels all cells. Credit: The Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics at The Rockefeller University/Nature Neuroscience

Cancer researchers are constantly in search of more-effective and less-toxic approaches to stopping the disease, and have recently launched clinical trials testing a new class of drugs called BET inhibitors. These therapies act on a group of proteins that help regulate the expression of many genes, some of which play a role in cancer.

New findings from The Rockefeller University suggest that the original version of BET inhibitors causes molecular changes in mouse neurons, and can lead to in mice that receive it. Published in Nature Neuroscience on August 24, the study was led by C. David Allis, Joy and Jack Fishman Professor in the Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics, in collaboration with Robert B. Darnell, Robert and Harriet Heilbrunn Professor and head of the Laboratory of Molecular Neuro-Oncology.

The findings will likely fuel more research into the brain effects of BET inhibitors, and could lead to the development of safer drugs that reduce the risk of potential side effects such as memory loss.

First author Erica Korb, a postdoctoral fellow in Allis’s lab, says the compound they tested in the study has the ability to cross into the brain…

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