New mechanism driving spread of cancer cells discovered
A new study has suggested that a protein commonly found in human cells can be an important switch that activates cancer cell metastasis.
Washington: A new study has suggested that a protein commonly found in human cells can be an important switch that activates cancer cell metastasis.
The research at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital focuses attention on a biological mechanism that until now was largely overlooked and the discovery of the protein's effect significantly expands the understanding of epithelial cancers such as breast and lung cancer.
The study examined the function of a protein called DENND2B. During childhood development, DENND2B likely plays a role in the normal migration of cells and in adults, cell migration is greatly reduced, but in the case of cancer, there is unwanted cell migration, contributing to one of the most puzzling aspects of cancer cells, metastasis to new locations.
Principal researcher Peter McPherson said that DENND2B activates another protein in the cell called Rab13, which is an enzyme that promotes cell migration.
Researcher Maria Ioannou, who found that Rab13 has an unusually high degree of expression in many forms of cancer, especially epithelial cancers that often metastasize to the brain, sais that it was important to see exactly where in the cell Rab13 was being turned on to figure out how it functions. They saw that the DENND2B protein was activating Rab13 at the leading edge of the cell, an important point for cell migration.
McPherson, who sees Rab13 as a focus for future research into cancer therapies, added that in the case of the cells with reduced Rab13 levels, the cancer either did not grow at all or formed a smaller tumour and furthermore, the smaller tumour did not metastasize into other tissue.
No one had considered targeting Rab13 in relation to cancer before this study, says McPherson, adding that clinical trials involving the discovery are still some time away.
The study will be published in the March 2 print edition of Journal of Cell Biology.