Unexpected synergy between two cancer-linked proteins offers hope for personalised cancer therapy

August 6, 2013, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore

A team of scientists from A*STAR's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) have discovered a new biomarker which will help physicians predict how well cancer patients respond to cancer drugs. Having the means to identify patients who are most likely to benefit from currently available cancer drugs not only reduces substantially the healthcare cost for the patient, it could mean saving precious lives by getting the right drugs to the right patient at the onset of the treatment. This study published and featured on August cover of the Journal of Clinical Investigation will boost the development of personalised medicine in cancer care and therapy.

Metastasis is the rapid and uncontrollable spread of from the primary tumour to other parts of the body. It is often the leading cause of death in cancer patients. Increasingly, there is evidence to show that in many cancers that have metastasised, a protein called PRL-3 is often found to be present at unusually high levels. Since it was first identified in 1998 by Associate Professor Zeng, several other research groups have found evidence to support the strong link between elevated levels of PRL-3 protein and the metastasis of aggressive cancers in the
lung, liver, colon and breast. This cancer-promoting action of PRL-3 makes it an ideal target for and treatment.

In this study, the IMCB team discovered a curious synergy between PRL-3 and EGFR, another well-known cancer-linked protein frequently associated with breast and lung cancers in humans. They found that cancer cells with higher levels of PRL-3 not only hyperactivate EGFR, but also develop an 'addiction' for it to survive. Consequently, by suppressing EGFR activity with EGFR inhibitor drugs, the scientists observed that cancer cells with higher levels of PRL-3 were more rapidly destroyed. To validate these findings in humans, the team collaborated with Associate Professor Wee Joo Chng from the National University Health System to run an analysis on pre-existing clinical data of colorectal cancer patients. The results confirmed that patients who respond better to EGFR inhibitor drugs were those suffering from cancers with abnormally high levels of PRL-3.

Associate Professor Zeng said, "This unexpected synergy has revealed a vulnerable spot of aggressive cancers and brought new hope of treating PRL-3 driven cancers successfully. The addiction phenomenon we observed in cancer cells is akin to depriving alcohol from an alcoholic, thereby inducing the severe 'withdrawal effects'. In the same way, by selecting cancer patients with elevated levels of PRL-3 and greater 'addiction' of EGFR for anti-EGFR treatment, we can deliver more effective and targeted cancer therapy with the existing EGFR inhibitor ."

Professor Sir David Lane, Chief Scientist of A*STAR said, "This is an excellent example of how years of basic research lay the foundation for advancement in translational and clinical applications. I am pleased that the team is exploring the potentials of developing this new predictive biomarker into a rapid diagnostic kit for identifying patients who will respond favourably to current anti-EGFR treatment. I believe that this study will open new avenues for personalised medicine in cancer therapy."

Explore further: Scientists make headway for cancer treatment and cancer prevention with landmark discovery

More information: Al-aidaroos, A. et al. Metastasis-associated PRL-3 induces EGFR activation and addiction in cancer cells, Journal of Clinical Investigation, August. www.jci.org/articles/view/66824

Related Stories

Scientists make headway for cancer treatment and cancer prevention with landmark discovery

September 8, 2011
Scientists at A*STAR's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) have made a landmark discovery in the battle against the rapid spread of aggressive cancers associated with PRL-3 oncoprotein . Contrary to the current ...

Scientists catch EGFR passing a crucial message to cancer-promoting protein

June 18, 2013
Researchers have discovered and mapped the signaling network between two previously unconnected proteins, exposing a link that, if broken, could cut off cancer cell growth at its starting point.

The right combination: Overcoming drug resistance in cancer

June 1, 2012
Overactive epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling has been linked to the development of cancer. Several drug therapies have been developed to treat these EGFR-associated cancers; however, many patients have developed ...

FDA approves new drug for advanced lung cancer

July 12, 2013
(HealthDay)—A new drug to treat advanced lung cancer has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Some patients with treatment-resistant colorectal cancers may have a new option

June 2, 2013
A subset of colorectal cancers responds to anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (anti-EGFR) therapies, but develops resistance within months. Among cancers that develop resistance to anti-EGFR therapy, some showed overexpression ...

Patients with EGFR exon 20 insertions have poorer prognosis

January 15, 2013
Exon 20 insertions are the third most common family of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations found in non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Little is known about cancers harboring these mutations aside from their ...

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.

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 ...

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.

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.

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 ...

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 ...

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.