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: Scientists discover new information about how enzymes from white blood cells function

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

Scientists discover new information about how enzymes from white blood cells function

January 5, 2015
As a part of the human immune system, white blood cells create a number of enzymes that help fight disease. Sometimes, these enzymes damage tissues in inflammatory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer ...

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 ...

Scientists reveal structure of key cancer target enzyme

November 18, 2015
A team from the University of York has published research unveiling the 3-D structure of human heparanase, a sugar-degrading enzyme which has received significant attention as a key target in anti-cancer treatments.

Recommended for you

Fusion hybrids: A newly discovered population of tumor cells

September 24, 2018
In a recent study published in Science Advances, Charles E. Gast and co-workers detail the spontaneous process of cancer cell fusion with white blood cells to produce heterogenous hybrid clones in multiple biological systems, ...

DNA vaccine leads to immune responses in HPV-related head and neck cancer

September 21, 2018
A therapeutic vaccine can boost antibodies and T cells, helping them infiltrate tumors and fight off human papillomavirus (HPV)-related head and neck cancer. Researchers from the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of ...

In zebrafish, a way to find new cancer therapies, targeting tumor modulators

September 21, 2018
The lab of Leonard Zon, MD, at Boston Children's Hospital has long been interested in making blood stem cells in quantity for therapeutic purposes. Looking for a way to test for their presence in zebrafish, their go-to research ...

What can salad dressing tell us about cancer? Think oil and vinegar

September 20, 2018
Researchers led by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital scientists have identified another way the process that causes oil to form droplets in water may contribute to solid tumors, such as prostate and breast cancer. The ...

Novel biomarker found in ovarian cancer patients can predict response to therapy

September 20, 2018
Despite months of aggressive treatment involving surgery and chemotherapy, about 85 percent of women with high-grade wide-spread ovarian cancer will have a recurrence of their disease. This leads to further treatment, but ...

Testing fluorescent tracers used to help surgeons determine edges of breast cancer tumors

September 20, 2018
A team of researchers with members from institutions in The Netherlands and China has conducted a test of fluorescent tracers meant to aid surgeons performing tumor removal in breast cancer patients. In their paper published ...

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.