Protein RAL associated with aggressive characteristics in prostate, bladder and skin cancers

We have known for years that when the proteins RalA and RalB are present, cells in dishes copy toward aggressive forms of cancer. However, until this week, no study had explored the effects of RAL proteins in human cancers – an essential step on the path to developing drugs to target these proteins. From metastasis in bladder cancer, to seminal vessel involvement in prostate cancer, to shortened survival in squamous cell carcinoma, a study published this week in the journal Cancer Research shows that proteins RalA and RalB are associated with aggressive cancer characteristics in human tumors.

"But here's the interesting part," says Dan Theodorescu, director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center and the paper's senior author – "it wasn't the presence of these proteins per se that predicted characteristics, it was the signature of other genes changed by RAL activity in the cells that predicted poor outcomes."

RalA and RalB activity leads to a cascade of genetic (and gene expression) changes. Theodorescu and colleagues discovered the signature of these changes, and this pattern of turning up and turning down genes is what predicts aggressive cancers.

"It might not be presence of these RAL proteins themselves that drives cancer as much as their ability to drive genetic changes that in turn drive cancer," Theodorescu says.

In the three types of human tumors explored – bladder, prostate, and the skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma – panels of genes affected by RalA and RalB in turn predicted stage and survival.

"The RAL family of GTPases are cousins of the now well-known RAS family of oncogenes," Theodorescu explains. "These RAS family GTPases, are found in leukemias, lung cancer, colon cancer and others, and have been a focus of efforts to develop targeted cancer therapies. We imagine the related RAL family may provide a similar target."

Remove RalA and RalB from cancer and perhaps doctors can stop the genetic changes that cause aggressive .

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Team genetically sequences most common bladder cancer

Aug 11, 2011

In an article published online this week in Nature Genetics, a University of Colorado Cancer Center team in partnership with universities in China and Denmark reports the first genetic sequencing of urothelial (transitional) carcin ...

Major study stops bladder cancer from metastasizing to lungs

Mar 12, 2012

The diagnosis of localized bladder cancer carries an 80 percent five-year survival rate, but once the cancer spreads, the survival rate at even three years is only 20 percent. A major study published today in the Journal of ...

New discovery raises doubts about current bladder treatment

Mar 25, 2009

Researchers at the University of Virginia Health System have found that one of the genes commonly thought to promote the growth and spread of some types of cancers is in fact beneficial in bladder cancer - a major discovery ...

Recommended for you

Aspirin may lower the risk for aggressive prostate cancer

34 minutes ago

Use of aspirin and/or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) was associated with a reduced risk for aggressive prostate cancer in men who had elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) and a negative biopsy prior ...

User comments