Gene found to play role in early cancer

August 24, 2011 By Krishna Ramanujan

(Medical Xpress) -- Mutations to a gene called p53 have been linked to half of all cancers, leading to tumor growth and the spread of cancerous cells. Now, a Cornell-led study identifies for the first time the mechanisms by which p53 controls cell movement and invasion into other areas of the body.

Using cultures of ovarian surface epithelium cells, where ovarian cancer originates, the researchers found that when they inactivated the , the cells began to move and invade the underlying gelatinous protein mixture used in the lab that resembles an extracellular tissue environment.

"People thought that and invasion were part of later stages of cancer, but we show that this characteristic can be found in cells at the very beginning of ," said Chang-Il Hwang, lead author of the paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and a graduate student in the lab of Cornell biomedical sciences professor and senior author Alexander Nikitin.

Under normal circumstances, p53 regulates the expression of a receptor protein called MET. But when p53 mutates, MET overexpresses, leading to cell movement and invasive growth. The researchers found two distinct pathways by which p53 regulates and suppresses MET.

"One of the next steps is to study ways to inhibit MET," said Hwang. "Our findings support the idea that suppression of MET could be a particularly reasonable and effective approach to controlling cancer carrying . We hope our findings can be generalized into other types of cancer as well."

In tests, the researchers found the p53 and MET network were consistent in both lung and colon cancer.

Mutations of p53 take many forms, with the most common mutation affecting one of the pathways that regulates MET but not the other pathway. By understanding how different p53 mutations affect each of the two pathways, researchers may one day develop individualized cancer therapies by suppressing MET, said Hwang.

"Different p53 mutations may affect the cancer from different angles," he added.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer, Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine and the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Could a green sponge hold cancer-fighting secrets?

July 27, 2017
A small green sponge discovered in dark, icy waters of the Pacific off Alaska could be the first effective weapon against pancreatic cancer, researchers said on Wednesday.

Stem cell therapy attacks cancer by targeting unique tissue stiffness

July 26, 2017
A stem cell-based method created by University of California, Irvine scientists can selectively target and kill cancerous tissue while preventing some of the toxic side effects of chemotherapy by treating the disease in a ...

Understanding cell segregation mechanisms that help prevent cancer spread

July 26, 2017
Scientists have uncovered how cells are kept in the right place as the body develops, which may shed light on what causes invasive cancer cells to migrate.

Study uncovers potential 'silver bullet' for preventing and treating colon cancer

July 26, 2017
In preclinical experiments, researchers at VCU Massey Cancer Center have uncovered a new way in which colon cancer develops, as well as a potential "silver bullet" for preventing and treating it. The findings may extend to ...

Compound shows promise in treating melanoma

July 26, 2017
While past attempts to treat melanoma failed to meet expectations, an international team of researchers are hopeful that a compound they tested on both mice and on human cells in a petri dish takes a positive step toward ...

Study may explain failure of retinoic acid trials against breast cancer

July 25, 2017
Estrogen-positive breast cancers are often treated with anti-estrogen therapies. But about half of these cancers contain a subpopulation of cells marked by the protein cytokeratin 5 (CK5), which resists treatment—and breast ...

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.