New studies create better understanding of cancer-spreading enzymes

December 2, 2015, University of Missouri-Columbia

As a part of the human immune system, white blood cells create a number of enzymes that help fight disease. Sometimes, these enzymes can malfunction, causing damage to the body or increasing cancer growth. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have determined a detailed structural view of one of these enzymes, called MMP7, as it binds to the membranes, or surfaces, of cancer cells. Steve Van Doren, a professor in the MU Department of Biochemistry, says understanding the structure of this enzyme and how it works with partners will help create future treatments for cancer.

"MMP7 is known to make cancer cells more aggressive and likely to spread throughout the body," Van Doren said. "We now understand that MMP7 signals to cancer cells to become more aggressive when the cuts off specific proteins as it binds to those cancer cells. Knowing this, we hopefully can find ways to prevent these enzymes from binding and signaling to these cancer cells in the first place. The end result could be a way to prevent cancer cells from spreading so rapidly."

For the study, Van Doren and his research team, including lead author Stephen Prior, a postdoctoral fellow at MU, used a highly sophisticated piece of equipment called a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer to map the structure of assemblies containing MMP7. Functioning similarly to a imaging (MRI) machine, the NMR spectrometer uses large magnets to allow scientists detect the nuclei of atoms in order to reconstruct detailed images of sub-microscopic enzymes. The researchers then study these 3D images to determine how these enzymes work within the body.

Additionally, Van Doren and his research team published a study investigating a sister enzyme, known as MMP14. In this study, Van Doren used the same NMR spectrometer to determine how MMP14 helps cancer spread throughout the body. He says this knowledge also will inform future research into ways to prevent the spread of cancer.

"MMP14 is the most important protein-cutting enzyme in terms of how migrate throughout the body," Van Doren said. "These enzymes essentially cut paths through the collagen meshwork of tissues in the body. By clearing paths through this collagen, the MMP14 enzyme enables tumor cells to move and spread. By understanding the structures of how these enzymes attack collagen and other proteins, we can find ways to block them from allowing cancer to spread."

These studies were published in Structure.

Explore further: Researchers discover protein that could help prevent the spread of cancer

More information: Stephen H. Prior et al. Charge-Triggered Membrane Insertion of Matrix Metalloproteinase-7, Supporter of Innate Immunity and Tumors, Structure (2015). DOI: 10.1016/j.str.2015.08.013

Related Stories

Researchers discover protein that could help prevent the spread of cancer

May 4, 2011
A protein capable of halting the spread of breast cancer cells could lead to a therapy for preventing or limiting the spread of the disease.

Innate immunity may help limit cancer growth

September 17, 2015
Cancer immunotherapy, a relatively new frontier in cancer treatment, works by enhancing the capacity of one's immune system to attack cancer cells. To date, this field has focused on developing cancer vaccines or engineering ...

Researchers develop antibody to save cancerous bones

December 2, 2015
Bone Cancer Primary bone cancer called Osteosarcoma (OS) is a rare cancer most often affecting adolescents and children. While most bone cancers have their origin in other body tissues and spread to the bones through metastases, ...

New paper offers insights into how cancer cells avoid cell death

June 19, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A new study by a team of researchers from the University of Notre Dame provides an important new insight into how cancer cells are able to avoid the cell death process. The findings may reveal a novel chemotherapeutic ...

Recommended for you

Targeting the engine room of the cancer cell

June 18, 2018
Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) have developed a highly innovative computational framework that can support personalized cancer treatment by matching individual tumors with the drugs or drug ...

Study suggests well-known growth suppressor actually fuels lethal brain cancers

June 18, 2018
Scientists report finding a potentially promising treatment target for aggressive and deadly high-grade brain cancers like glioblastoma. But they also say the current lack of a drug that hits the molecular target keeps it ...

Researchers create novel combination as potential therapy for high-risk neuroblastoma

June 18, 2018
Researchers at VCU Massey Cancer Center in Richmond, Virginia, have identified a promising target to reverse the development of high-risk neuroblastoma and potentially inform the creation of novel combination therapies for ...

Genomics offers new treatment options for infants with range of soft tissue tumors

June 18, 2018
The genetic causes of a group of related infant cancers have been discovered by scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the University of Wuerzburg and their collaborators. Whole genome sequencing of tumours revealed ...

Standard myelofibrosis drug can awaken 'dormant' lymphoma

June 18, 2018
Most patients with myelofibrosis, a rare chronic disorder of the haematopoietic cells of the bone marrow, benefit from drugs from the JAK2 inhibitor class: symptoms are relieved, survival extended and general quality-of-life ...

Breast cancer researcher warns against online genetic tests

June 18, 2018
We have never been so fascinated by the secrets inside our cells.

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.