Developmental protein plays role in spread of cancer

June 14, 2013
Developmental protein plays role in spread of cancer
This image shows metastasized human breast cancer cells (magnified 400 times, stained brown) in lymph nodes. Credit: National Cancer Institute

A protein used by embryo cells during early development, and recently found in many different types of cancer, apparently serves as a switch regulating the spread of cancer, known as metastasis, report researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center in the June 15, 2013 issue of the journal Cancer Research.

Metastasis is responsible for 90 percent of cancer-related deaths. More than 575,000 Americans die of cancer each year, the second leading cause of death in the United States after cardiovascular disease.

The scientists, led by principal investigator Thomas Kipps, MD, PhD, Evelyn and Edwin Tasch Chair in Cancer Research at UC San Diego, discovered an association between the protein, called Receptor-tyrosine-kinase-like Orphan Receptor 1 or ROR1, and the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a process that occurs during embryogenesis when cells migrate and then grow into new organs during early development.

In research published in 2012, Kipps and colleagues reported for the first time that ROR1 is expressed during embryogenesis and by many different types of cancers, but not by normal post-partum tissues. They also discovered that silencing the protein impaired the growth and survival of human .

In their latest work, the scientists found that high-level expression of ROR1 in breast cancer cells correlates to higher rates of relapse and metastasis in patients with breast adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer that originates in . Conversely, silencing expression of ROR1 reverses EMT and inhibits the metastatic spread of cells in animal models. Moreover, the researchers found that treatment with a monoclonal antibody targeting ROR1 also could inhibit the growth and spread of highly that express ROR1.

"We might think of ROR1 as an oncogene," said study co-author Bing Cui, PhD, a in Kipps' lab. "This means ROR1 has some tumor initiation functions. However, ROR1 also appears to allow transformed cells to invade other tissues and to promote tumor expansion in both the primary tumor site and in distant organs."

Because ROR1 is expressed only in cancer cells, Kipps' team says it presents a singular, selective target for anti-cancer therapies that would leave normal cells unaffected. It's not yet clear how the monoclonal antibody approach, tested thus far only in culture and animal models, impacts primary tumors, said Cui, but it does offer promise for inhibiting the spread of cancer. The researchers are developing a humanized monoclonal antibody for potential clinical studies in patients with cancers that express ROR1.

Explore further: Embryonic development protein active in cancer growth

Related Stories

Embryonic development protein active in cancer growth

March 6, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- A team of scientists at the University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center has identified a novel protein expressed by breast cancer cells – but not normal adult tissues – that could ...

Monoclonal antibody targets, kills leukemia cells

March 25, 2013
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center have identified a humanized monoclonal antibody that targets and directly kills chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells.

Tumor-activated protein promotes cancer spread

May 13, 2013
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center report that cancers physically alter cells in the lymphatic system – a network of vessels that transports and ...

Six2 homeoprotein allows breast cancer cells to detach and metastasize

April 9, 2013
In results presented at the AACR Annual Meeting 2013, researchers from the University of Colorado Cancer Center show that the Six2 homeoprotein, while not involved in primary tumor growth, allows cells to detach from substrate ...

Novel monoclonal antibody inhibits tumor growth in breast cancer and angiosarcoma

April 19, 2013
A monoclonal antibody targeting a protein known as SFPR2 has been shown by researchers at the University of North Carolina to inhibit tumor growth in pre-clinical models of breast cancer and angiosarcoma.

Recommended for you

No dye: Cancer patients' gray hair darkened on immune drugs

July 21, 2017
Cancer patients' gray hair unexpectedly turned youthfully dark while taking novel drugs, and it has doctors scratching their heads.

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

Discovery could lead to better results for patients undergoing radiation

July 19, 2017
More than half of cancer patients undergo radiotherapy, in which high doses of radiation are aimed at diseased tissue to kill cancer cells. But due to a phenomenon known as radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE), in which ...

Definitive genomic study reveals alterations driving most medulloblastoma brain tumors

July 19, 2017
The most comprehensive analysis yet of medulloblastoma has identified genomic changes responsible for more than 75 percent of the brain tumors, including two new suspected cancer genes that were found exclusively in the least ...

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.