Researchers target 'cell sleep' to lower chances of cancer recurrence

August 1, 2013, University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

An international research team led by University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) scientists discovered that by preventing cancer cells from entering a state of cellular sleep, cancer drugs are more effective, and there is a lower chance of cancer recurrence. The findings, which will be published in the August 15 issue of the journal Cancer Research and are available online, are the first to show that it is possible to therapeutically target cancer cells to keep them from entering a cellular state called quiescence, or "cell sleep." Quiescence can be a dangerous source of tumor recurrence because cancer drugs don't typically destroy quiescent cells.

"Successful cancer therapy often is hampered by tumor cell quiescence because these cells remain viable and are a reservoir for tumor progression," said Anette Duensing, M.D., assistant professor of pathology at UPCI. "By inhibiting a key regulator of quiescence, we are able to kill a larger fraction of cancer cells."

Dr. Duensing and her colleagues made the discovery while studying (GISTs), which are uncommon tumors that begin in the walls of the gastrointestinal tract. According to the American Cancer Society, about 5,000 cases of GISTs occur each year in the United States with an estimated five-year survival rate of 45 percent in patients with advanced disease.

GISTs are caused by a single gene mutation, which means they can be successfully treated with the targeted therapy drug imatinib, known by the trade name Gleevec. Unlike traditional chemotherapy, which kills all rapidly dividing cells, targeted therapy stops cancer by interfering with specific molecules needed for tumor growth.

Unfortunately, GISTs rapidly develop resistance to the treatment and complete cancer remission using Gleevec is rare. A key regulator of the cancer cell sleep process is a protein complex called DREAM, which is named for the multiple proteins involved. Gleevec induces cell sleep using the DREAM complex, which means that the drug intrinsically limits its own effectiveness.

"When we disrupted the DREAM complex in the lab, we significantly increased cancer cell death using Gleevec," said Dr. Duensing. "This underscores the importance of the DREAM complex as a novel drug target worthy of preclinical and clinical investigations."

Explore further: New technology spots drugs' early impact on cancer

Related Stories

New technology spots drugs' early impact on cancer

April 9, 2013
A new preclinical technology enables researchers to quickly determine if a particular treatment is effective against gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs), providing a boost to animal research and possibly patient care, ...

Targeting pancreatic cancer drug resistance

July 8, 2013
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly and intractable forms of cancer, with a 5-year survival rate of only 6%. Novel therapies are urgently needed, as conventional and targeted approaches have not been successful and ...

Nano drug crosses blood-brain tumor barrier, targets brain tumor cells and blood vessels

July 17, 2013
(Phys.org) —An experimental drug in early development for aggressive brain tumors can cross the blood-brain tumor barrier and kill tumor cells and block the growth of tumor blood vessels, according to a recent study led ...

Digest this: Cure for cancer may live in our intestines

July 31, 2013
Treating a cancerous tumor is like watering a houseplant with a fire hose—too much water kills the plant, just as too much chemotherapy and radiation kills the patient before it kills the tumor.

Recommended for you

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

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.