Light sources are the ultimate app for particle physics. Researchers around the world use the powerful X-ray beams that light sources create for materials science, protein structure analysis, historical research, pharmaceutical research and drug development and the list keeps going. Argonne National Laboratory published the following story on August 25, 2011 about contributions that the Advanced Photon Source made to developing a new drug to treat skin cancer. For more examples about the applications of particle physics, visit Accelerators for America’s Future.
Powerful x-ray technology developed at the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s (DOE-SC’s) national laboratories, including the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory, has enabled the discovery of a groundbreaking new drug treatment for malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The drug, Zelboraf (vemurafenib), received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval on Wednesday, August 17, 2011. In revealing the structures of diseased and disease-causing molecules at their basic level, the DOE-SC’s extremely bright x-ray light sources enable scientists to develop potential new treatments.
The protein crystallographic structure of the new anti-cancer drug, vemurafenib, is the green honeycomb structure at middle left. Four dotted red lines show where it attaches to a target area in the mutated enzyme, disabling it from promoting the growth of tumors. Image courtesy of Plexxikon Inc.
“This technology is a wonderful example of how innovations at our national laboratories lead to discoveries in a wide variety of fields,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “In this case, we are pleased to have been involved in research that has shown great promise in the battle against life-threatening melanoma.”