Hippo pathway to better cancer treatment?

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have discovered a potential new pathway to treat cancer by asking some odd questions about the size of animals.

"Mammals display a huge range in size from the largest to the tiniest ," says Colby Zaph, assistant professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Biomedical Research Centre, who co-authored the study published in Developmental Cell.

"So why don't we have miniature whales or gigantic bats? It turns out that there are specific pathways that tell cells when to grow and when to stop."

One of those pathways is called the Hippo pathway – a key control in how our organs are perfectly suited to our bodies, despite differences in size. Zaph, along with postdoctoral research fellow Menno Oudhoff, uncovered that size differences could be manipulated after a specific chemical modification called methylation dramatically affected its function.

Using mice genetically lacking an enzyme called Set7, the results show that methylation of a protein called Yap is critical for the function of the Hippo pathway. Loss of the Set7 enzyme resulted in cell growth and larger organs.

"It's too early to tell how successful modifying this pathway could be in terms of helping with . But based on our results, drugs that may activate the Set7 enzyme – to stop cell growth – may be invaluable to fighting cancers with Hippo pathway mutations" says Zaph.

The pathway has gone relatively unchanged despite evolution and could play a crucial role in regenerative medicine, including in skin growth and .

"Harnessing these results to treat diseases is now the next step."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Controlling for size may also prevent cancer

Sep 20, 2007

Scientists at Johns Hopkins recently discovered that a chemical chain reaction that controls organ size in animals ranging from insects to humans could mean the difference between normal growth and cancer. The study, published ...

Recommended for you

Physicians target the genes of lung, colon cancers

14 minutes ago

(Medical Xpress)—University of Florida physicians and researchers are collaborating to map the genes of different types of cancer, and then deliver medication to attack cancer at its source.

DNA alternative to Pap smear sparks medical debate (Update)

18 hours ago

A high-tech screening tool for cervical cancer is facing pushback from more than a dozen American patient groups, who warn that the genetic test could displace a simpler, cheaper and more established mainstay of women's health: ...

User comments