Use of Novel Peptide, ATAP, for Inducing Cancer Cell Death


Piscataway, NJ – Researchers from UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School have discovered a novel peptide that can act as a potent inducer of cancer cell death, which may have significant implications for therapeutic agents used to treat cancer. Their study indicates that the amphipathic tail-anchoring peptide, or ATAP, may provide more successful outcomes in cancer treatment than the BH3 peptide-based therapy currently used.  The study was released online December 28, 2010, as a Paper of the Week in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Recent advances in cancer research have focused on the use of peptides to initiate apoptosis, or the death of cancer cells. Bcl-2 homology domain-3 (BH3) peptides are potent therapeutic agents that are currently used in cancer treatment. However, BH3-based therapy has some limitations, as cancer cells often acquire resistance to treatment by producing anti-apoptic proteins that inhibit this type of treatment.  In studying alternate strategies to induce cancer cell death, the researchers discovered that ATAP was unaffected by anti-apoptic proteins and could successfully induce the death of cancer cells that are resistant to BH3-mediated therapy.

“Our study indicates that ATAP has a potential advantage over BH3 peptides as a therapeutic agent for cancer because it evades anti-apoptic proteins that cause cancer tumors to become resistant to therapy,” said Dr. Jianjie Ma, PhD, professor and interim chair of physiology and biophysics at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.  “This novel discovery has implications for improving peptide-based therapy in the treatment of cancer.” 

Dr. Ma led the study in collaboration with Jialing Lin, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City. The research was supported in part with a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Papers of the Week is an online feature of the Journal of Biological Chemistry,  a journal of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which highlights the top one percent of papers received by the journal. About 50 to 100 papers are selected from the more than 6,600 published each year. Brief summaries of the papers and explanations of why they were selected for this honor can be accessed directly from the home page of the Journal of Biological Chemistry online at

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with over 11,000 members in the United States and internationally. Most members teach and conduct research at colleges and universities. Others conduct research in various government laboratories, nonprofit research institutions, and industry.


As one of the nation’s leading comprehensive medical schools, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in education, research, health care delivery, and the promotion of community health. In cooperation with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the medical school’s principal affiliate, they comprise New Jersey’s premier academic medical center. In addition, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School has 34 other hospital affiliates and ambulatory care sites throughout the region.


As one of the eight schools of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey with 2,800 full-time and volunteer faculty, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School encompasses 22 basic science and clinical departments, hosts centers and institutes including The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the Child Health Institute of New Jersey, the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, and the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey. The medical school maintains educational programs at the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate levels for more than 1,500 students on its campuses in New Brunswick, Piscataway, and Camden, and provides continuing education courses for health care professionals and community education programs.  To learn more about UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, log on to Find us online at and



Jennifer Forbes                                                                                                         
Communications & Public Affairs
732-235-6356, [email protected]

Categories Cancers