Ovarian cancer cells switched off by 'unusual' mechanism

June 19, 2018 by Kate Wighton, Imperial College London
Cancer cells (blue) are deactivated. Credit: Imperial College London

Scientists at the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre at Imperial College London have discovered a mechanism that deactivates ovarian cancer cells.

The findings, published in EMBO Reports, could lead to better treatments for women with ovarian .

The research has found a new mechanism for a protein named OPCML. This protein is known as a tumour suppressor, as it prevents turning cancerous.

However OPCML is usually lost in cancer patients. Scientists have now found that when OPCML is put back into cancer cells, it cleverly deactivates a type of protein called AXL.

Previous research has shown the AXL protein accelerates the growth and spread of ovarian cancer cells. Clinical trials are already underway for treatments that block AXL, called AXL inhibitors.

But this new early stage research demonstrates potential for minimising with AXL inhibitors, and in turn reducing side effects for women being treated for ovarian cancer.

When AXL becomes activated, it renders cancer cells more aggressive, increasing their ability to move and spread to other parts of the body.

However, it also reveals itself to OPCML, which then drags the bound molecules into a specific region of the cell where AXL is deactivated.

The research was funded by medical research charity Ovarian Cancer Action and carried out at the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre at Imperial College London.

The study, co-authored by Dr. Chiara Recchi and Professor Hani Gabra, found that since OPCML already blocks most of AXL, much less AXL inhibitor is required to deactivate the .

Since inhibitors always present a certain degree of toxicity, if the dose of the inhibitor could be reduced, the patients should suffer fewer side effects.

The next stage is to develop OPCML as a therapeutic agent.

Since OPCML acts on the external part of the cells, delivering it on the surface of cancer cells could represent an efficient therapeutic strategy.

Also, OPCML is a "natural" protein present in most of the cells of our bodies, so it should have minimal toxicity.

New treatments

Dr. Chiara Recchi, lead author of the study from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial, said: "Our results are really exciting because they reveal an unusual biological mechanism and shed light on the function of AXL, pointing us in the right direction to find a way to switch it off in cancer patients. In this context, OPCML has a tremendous potential as therapeutic."

Dr. Jane Antony, Research Associate and first author of the study said: "This study will enable new treatment strategies to be designed to fight recurrent and aggressive ovarian cancer, for which there are currently limited treatment options. AXL has always been a key player in cancer metastasis and these results reveal how these cancer drivers can be modulated by tumour suppressors such as OPCML."

Professor Iain McNeish, Director of Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre at Imperial, said: "At the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre, our aim is always to translate important scientific discoveries into new treatments for our patients. These exciting results reveal potential new mechanisms by which we can attack ."

Explore further: Ovarian cancer is hard to detect

More information: Jane Antony et al. The tumour suppressor OPCML promotes AXL inactivation by the phosphatase PTPRG in ovarian cancer, EMBO reports (2018). DOI: 10.15252/embr.201745670

Related Stories

Ovarian cancer is hard to detect

May 12, 2018
Ovarian cancer is estimated to affect more than 22,000 women each year and is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths among women, according to American Cancer Society.

Mesothelial cells promote ovarian cancer metastasis

September 9, 2014
Less than half of the women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will survive beyond 5 years. Ovarian cancer readily spreads to abdominal organs, which are covered by a layer of cells called the mesothelium. Ovarian cancer cells ...

USPSTF recommends against ovarian cancer screening

February 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends against screening for ovarian cancer in asymptomatic women. These findings form the basis of a final recommendation statement published in the Feb. ...

Research suggests new possibility for treating aggressive ovarian cancer

November 30, 2016
A recent discovery by researchers from the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore (CSI Singapore) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) may lead to a new treatment strategy for an aggressive ovarian cancer subtype.

Chemotherapy may boost immunotherapy power in ovarian cancer

June 15, 2016
Women with advanced ovarian cancer may benefit more from immunotherapy drug treatments if they are given straight after chemotherapy, according to a new study published in Clinical Cancer Research today.

New ovarian cancer drug licensed for use

December 21, 2017
A new drug to delay the spread of ovarian cancer, which was developed from UCL research, has been licensed for use in the UK.

Recommended for you

Discovery of kidney cancer driver could lead to new treatment strategy

July 19, 2018
University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center scientists have uncovered a potential therapeutic target for kidney cancers that have a common genetic change. Scientists have known this genetic change ...

High fruit and vegetable consumption may reduce risk of breast cancer, especially aggressive tumors

July 19, 2018
Women who eat a high amount of fruits and vegetables each day may have a lower risk of breast cancer, especially of aggressive tumors, than those who eat fewer fruits and vegetables, according to a new study led by researchers ...

Sunscreen reduces melanoma risk by 40 per cent in young people

July 19, 2018
A world-first study led by University of Sydney has found that Australians aged 18-40 years who were regular users of sunscreen in childhood reduced their risk of developing melanoma by 40 percent, compared to those who rarely ...

Analysis of prostate tumors reveals clues to cancer's aggressiveness

July 19, 2018
Using genetic sequencing, scientists have revealed the complete DNA makeup of more than 100 aggressive prostate tumors, pinpointing important genetic errors these deadly tumors have in common. The study lays the foundation ...

Complementary medicine for cancer can decrease survival

July 19, 2018
People who received complementary therapy for curable cancers were more likely to refuse at least one component of their conventional cancer treatment, and were more likely to die as a result, according to researchers from ...

Overcoming resistance to a standard chemotherapy drug

July 19, 2018
Despite being studied for decades, the chemotherapy drug cisplatin is revealing new aspects of how it works. Researchers at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University have identified an enzyme responsible for making tumors ...

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.