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."

Related Stories

Controlling for size may also prevent cancer

date 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

DNA blood test detects lung cancer mutations

date 16 hours ago

Cancer DNA circulating in the bloodstream of lung cancer patients can provide doctors with vital mutation information that can help optimise treatment when tumour tissue is not available, an international group of researchers ...

Tumors prefer the easy way out

date 19 hours ago

Tumor cells become lethal when they spread. Blocking this process can be a powerful way to stop cancer. Historically, scientists thought that tumor cells migrated by brute force, actively pushing through whatever ...

Brain tumors may be new targets of Ebola-like virus

date 19 hours ago

Brain tumors are notoriously difficult for most drugs to reach, but Yale researchers have found a promising but unlikely new ally against brain cancers—portions of a deadly virus similar to Ebola.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.