Study discovers genetic pathway impacting the spread of cancer cells

May 3, 2012, Lawson Health Research Institute

In a new study from Lawson Health Research Institute, Dr. Joseph Torchia has identified a new genetic pathway influencing the spread of cancer cells. The discovery of this mechanism could lead to new avenues for treatment.

Regular cell division is regulated by methylation, a series of chemical changes. Methylation modifies DNA to ensure cells divide at a healthy, balanced rate. In cancer, the methylation process is unbalanced, causing cells to resist regulation and divide uncontrollably.

Research suggests changes in genetics play a role in this process, yet little is known about the mechanism. In a new study led by Dr. Torchia and his colleagues, a hormone called Transforming Growth Factor Beta (TGF-β) is starting to show the answers. Using genetic sequencing, they analyzed the effects of TGF-β on DNA methylation to reveal a never-before-seen pathway.

When TGF-β comes into contact with a cell it activates the tumor-suppressing gene, which stops the cells from dividing. According to Dr. Torchia's group, ZNF217, a cancer-causing gene, can interfere with this process by binding to the DNA. This prevents the tumour-suppressing genes from activating, and the cells continue to divide.

These results characterize the dynamic processes underlying cell division, suggesting genetic influencers must be balanced to keep under control. Most importantly, they provide hope for new cancer therapies.

"This link between methylation and TGF-β has never been shown before," Dr. Torchia says. "If we understand how methylation is regulated, and identify the machinery that's involved, we may be able to target some of the machinery therapeutically and turn these genes back on to fight the ."

The full study is published in Molecular Cell.

Explore further: The USP15 biological thermostat: A promising novel therapeutic target in cancer

Related Stories

The USP15 biological thermostat: A promising novel therapeutic target in cancer

February 19, 2012
After years studying the molecular bases of glioblastoma - the most common brain tumor and one of the most aggressive of all cancers, the group led by Dr. Joan Seoane , Director of Translational Research at the Vall d'Hebron ...

Regulating nuclear signalling in cancer

August 4, 2011
Research findings published recently in Nature Communications describe a completely new way in which TGFβ receptors regulate nuclear signalling. The findings are significant given that this new signalling pathway seems ...

Recommended for you

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.

Aggressive breast cancer already has resistant tumour cells prior to chemotherapy

April 20, 2018
Difficult to treat and aggressive "triple-negative" breast cancer is chemoresistant even before chemotherapy begins, a new study by researchers from Karolinska Institutet and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center ...

Mechanism that drives development of liver cancer brought on by non-alcoholic fatty liver disease discovered

April 19, 2018
A team of researchers from several institutions in China has found a mechanism that appears to drive the development of a type of liver cancer not caused by alcohol consumption. In their paper published in the journal Science ...

Discovery adds to evidence that some children are predisposed to develop leukemia

April 19, 2018
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital researchers have made a discovery that expands the list of genes to include when screening individuals for possible increased susceptibility to childhood leukemia. The finding is reported ...

Chip-based blood test for multiple myeloma could make bone biopsies a relic of the past

April 19, 2018
The diagnosis and treatment of multiple myeloma, a cancer affecting plasma cells, traditionally forces patients to suffer through a painful bone biopsy. During that procedure, doctors insert a bone-biopsy needle through an ...

Scientists identify 170 potential lung cancer drug targets using unique cellular library

April 19, 2018
After testing more than 200,000 chemical compounds, UT Southwestern's Simmons Cancer Center researchers have identified 170 chemicals that are potential candidates for development into drug therapies for lung cancer.

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.