Researchers identify new cell targets for preventing growth of breast and other tumors

April 23, 2008

Researchers at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have discovered new targets for cancer treatment aimed at blocking a key step in tumor progression.

This step – the creation of new blood vessels – enables tumors to grow out of control and ultimately spread cancer to other parts of the body.

Targeting blood vessel formation, or angiogenesis, promises to be less toxic than the standard chemotherapy approach that kills cancer cells and normal cells alike. The new tactic has been shown by others to be successful in the treatment of breast cancer and colon cancer with the drug bevacizumab (commercially known as Avastin), which inhibits an important player in angiogenesis, a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

“There is a large amount of data that shows if you block angiogenesis, you can block tumor growth,” said Dr. Nancy Klauber-DeMore, associate professor of surgery in the UNC School of Medicine and senior author on the study. “But VEGF is not responsible for all of angiogenesis. We wanted to identify more targets for this therapeutic approach.

“The most exciting aspect of this study is that we now have a very large list of potential targets that we will continue to work on for at least the next decade,” Klauber-DeMore said.

A report of the study appeared online this month in the American Journal of Pathology. It will be published in the May 2008 print edition of the journal.

Angiogenesis only occurs normally in a few instances, such as wound healing, female reproduction and fetal development. But it also plays an important role in the growth and spread of cancer. New blood vessels provide essential nourishment to cancer cells, allowing them to grow, travel to other parts of the body and form new cancers.

Because tumors cannot grow or spread without the formation of new blood vessels, Klauber-DeMore sought new targets that are produced in excess (‘overexpressed’) on tumor blood vessels. The hope is that by identifying proteins on these vessels, new drugs may be developed that block these proteins and put a stop to tumor blood vessel growth.

In a technique that took three years to perfect, the UNC researchers microdissected individual vascular cells from frozen sections of five cancerous and five normal breast tissue samples. They scanned the activity of thousands of genes in the isolated cells and then compared the gene activity between the tumor and normal vascular samples. They found 1,176 genes that differed in activity or “expression” between the two cell populations. Of these, 55 genes were overexpressed more than four-fold in blood vessels from breast cancer.

Because proteins that either lie on the cell surface or are secreted from the cell are the easiest targets for drug development, the researchers searched a database to pinpoint the likely cellular location of the proteins encoded by the candidate genes. They found that seven of the genes encoded membrane or secreted proteins. Four of these – namely FAP, SFRP2, JAK3 and SMPD3 – had not just increased gene expression, but also increased protein expression in breast tumor vessels, and thus could be good targets for the development of novel cancer therapies.

The researchers need to do further research to accurately define whether these proteins induce angiogenesis, Klauber-DeMore said. They can then design new compounds and test existing ones to see if they inhibit tumor growth.

“We’ve only looked at seven out of a list of 55 potential targets,” Klauber-DeMore said. “This work points us in the direction we need to go to develop the next generation of angiogenesis inhibitors.”

Klauber-DeMore said that other researchers, led by George Coukos at Fox Chase Cancer Center, are trying the same approach with ovarian cancer, suggesting that this strategy may be applicable to many different tumor types.

Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Explore further: Study shows a new approach to treating patients with stage IV Wilms tumor

Related Stories

Study shows a new approach to treating patients with stage IV Wilms tumor

April 25, 2018
A new study showing significantly improved survival rates for patients with stage IV Wilms tumors with lung metastases was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The outcomes of the study, "Treatment of Stage ...

Noninvasive brain tumor biopsy on the horizon

April 26, 2018
Taking a biopsy of a brain tumor is a complicated and invasive surgical process, but a team of researchers at Washington University in St. Louis is developing a way that allows them to detect tumor biomarkers through a simple ...

Removing the enablers: Reducing number of tumor-supporting cells to fight neuroblastoma

April 24, 2018
Investigators at the Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at Children's Hospital Los Angeles provide preclinical evidence that the presence of tumor-associated macrophages—a type of immune cell—can negatively ...

Single-cell study in a childhood brain tumor affirms the importance of context

April 20, 2018
In defining the cellular context of diffuse midline gliomas, researchers find the cells fueling their growth and suggest a potential approach to treating them: forcing their cells to be more mature.

Targeting molecules called miR-200s and ADAR2 could prevent tumor metastasis in patients with colorectal cancer

April 24, 2018
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide and the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths. The main cause of death in patients with colorectal cancer is liver metastasis, with nearly 70% of patients ...

Radiotherapy offers new treatment option for liver cancer

April 24, 2018
A novel technique that delivers high doses of radiation to tumors while sparing the surrounding normal tissue shows promise as a curative treatment option for patients with early-stage liver cancer, according to a study published ...

Recommended for you

New breath and urine tests detect early breast cancer more accurately

April 25, 2018
A new method for early and accurate breast cancer screening has been developed by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka University Medical Center, using commercially available technology.

Do prostate cancer cells have an Achilles' heel?

April 25, 2018
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago describe new ways to selectively kill prostate cancer cells by exploiting the cells' revved-up metabolism. They report their findings in the online journal, eLife.

Research shows possible new target for immunotherapy for solid tumors

April 24, 2018
Research from the University of Cincinnati (UC) reveals a potential new target to help T cells (white blood cells) infiltrate certain solid tumors.

Changes in breast tissue increase cancer risk for older women

April 24, 2018
Researchers in Norway, Switzerland, and the United States have identified age-related differences in breast tissue that contribute to older women's increased risk of developing breast cancer. The findings, published April ...

Experimental arthritis drug prevents stem cell transplant complication

April 24, 2018
An investigational drug in clinical trials for rheumatoid arthritis prevents a common, life-threatening side effect of stem cell transplants, new research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows. ...

Scientists develop a new model for glioblastoma using gene-edited organoids

April 24, 2018
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is an incredibly deadly brain cancer and presents a serious black box challenge. It's virtually impossible to observe how these tumors operate in their natural environment and animal models don't ...

0 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.