Researchers demonstrate RAS dimers are essential for cancer

January 11, 2018 by Cathy Frisinger, UT Southwestern Medical Center
RAS oncogenes work in pairs, known as "dimers." Credit: UT Southwestern

Mutated RAS genes are some of the most common genetic drivers of cancer, especially in aggressive cancers like pancreatic and lung cancer, but no medicines that target RAS are available despite decades of effort.

Researchers at UT Southwestern's Simmons Cancer Center have shown that RAS molecules act in pairs, known as dimers, to cause cancer, findings that could help guide them to a treatment.

"RAS mutations are one of the most common causes of cancer and there are no options for attacking them. The dimerization activity of RAS gives us a solid lead for moving forward," said Dr. Kenneth Westover, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology and Biochemistry with the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center, which is recognizing its 75th anniversary this year.

The question of RAS dimerization has been hotly debated, he said, but researchers previously haven't been able to prove what RAS dimers look like, limiting the ability to design experiments that assess their importance in normal physiology and cancer. The UT Southwestern team led by Dr. Westover used X-ray crystallography data to predict what a RAS dimer might look like, then tested the model in cells using a method called fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) to show when RAS forms dimers and when it does not.

The study, published in the journal Cell, provides a foundation for further studies that delve into RAS biology and could potentially pave the way to develop new cancer drugs that target RAS dimerization.

"The primary function of RAS is to transmit signals that tell a cell to grow and divide, a pathway commonly hijacked in cancer. What became clear in our studies is that RAS needs to dimerize to efficiently pass signals in . Moreover, RAS dimerization appears to be a crucial event for mutated forms of RAS to cause cancer," said Dr. Westover, part of the Simmons Lung Cancer Team.

Members of the Westover research lab teamed up with researchers from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute to show that RAS dimers are essential in a number of cancer cell systems and animal models of .

Explore further: Cancer researchers identify irreversible inhibitor for KRAS gene mutation

Related Stories

Cancer researchers identify irreversible inhibitor for KRAS gene mutation

July 28, 2014
UT Southwestern Medical Center cancer researchers have found a molecule that selectively and irreversibly interferes with the activity of a mutated cancer gene common in 30 percent of tumors.

Researchers uncover mechanism for cancer-killing properties of pepper plant

January 3, 2017
UT Southwestern Medical Center scientists have uncovered the chemical process behind anti-cancer properties of a spicy Indian pepper plant called the long pepper, whose suspected medicinal properties date back thousands of ...

Genetic targets to chemo-resistant breast cancer identified

October 3, 2017
Research led by Dr. Carlos Arteaga, Director of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, has identified potential targets for treatment of triple negative breast cancer, the most aggressive form of breast cancer.

Scientists discover new therapeutic target for lung cancer driven by KRAS

July 28, 2016
UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have identified a new way to target lung cancer through the KRAS gene, one of the most commonly mutated genes in human cancer and one researchers have so far had difficulty targeting ...

Team develops classification model for cancers caused by most frequently mutated gene in cancer

October 7, 2015
UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have developed a classification for cancers caused by KRAS, the most frequently mutated gene in cancer, that could eventually help oncologists choose more effective, customized cancer ...

Lung cancer may go undetected in kidney cancer patients

March 8, 2017
Could lung cancer be hiding in kidney cancer patients? Researchers with the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center's Kidney Cancer Program studied patients with metastatic kidney cancer to the lungs and found that ...

Recommended for you

Do prostate cancer cells have an Achilles' heel?

April 25, 2018
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago describe new ways to selectively kill prostate cancer cells by exploiting the cells' revved-up metabolism. They report their findings in the online journal, eLife.

Research shows possible new target for immunotherapy for solid tumors

April 24, 2018
Research from the University of Cincinnati (UC) reveals a potential new target to help T cells (white blood cells) infiltrate certain solid tumors.

Changes in breast tissue increase cancer risk for older women

April 24, 2018
Researchers in Norway, Switzerland, and the United States have identified age-related differences in breast tissue that contribute to older women's increased risk of developing breast cancer. The findings, published April ...

Targeting molecules called miR-200s and ADAR2 could prevent tumor metastasis in patients with colorectal cancer

April 24, 2018
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide and the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths. The main cause of death in patients with colorectal cancer is liver metastasis, with nearly 70% of patients ...

Experimental arthritis drug prevents stem cell transplant complication

April 24, 2018
An investigational drug in clinical trials for rheumatoid arthritis prevents a common, life-threatening side effect of stem cell transplants, new research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows. ...

Scientists develop a new model for glioblastoma using gene-edited organoids

April 24, 2018
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is an incredibly deadly brain cancer and presents a serious black box challenge. It's virtually impossible to observe how these tumors operate in their natural environment and animal models don't ...

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.