Too much SP2 protein turns stem cells into 'evil twin' cancer cells

Oct 27, 2010

Researchers at North Carolina State University have found that the overproduction of a key protein in stem cells causes those stem cells to form cancerous tumors. Their work may lead to new treatments for a variety of cancers.

Dr. Jon Horowitz, associate professor of molecular biomedical sciences, and a team of NC State researchers looked at the protein SP2, which regulates the activity of other genes. They knew that elevated amounts of SP2 had been observed in human prostate-cancer patients, and that these levels only increased as the tumors became more dangerous. They then showed that precisely the same thing occurs in mouse skin tumors.

Horowitz and the team decided to look at SP2 as a possible cause of in epithelial cell-derived tumors, which comprise about 80 percent of all human tumors; epithelial cells cover the body's internal and external surfaces. They found that overproduction of the SP2 protein in epithelial stem cells stopped them from spawning mature descendants. The affected stem cells, unable to produce mature cells, just kept proliferating, resulting in the formation of tumors.

The researchers' results are published in the Nov. 3 edition of the journal Cancer Research.

"Something happens to normal stem cells that changes the way SP2 is regulated, and it starts being overproduced," Horowitz says. "SP2 basically hijacks the stem cell, and turns it into its evil twin – a cancer cell."

Now that the link between tumor formation and SP2 has been shown, Horowitz says, scientists can turn their attention to looking at ways to target the overproduction of this protein. "Our hope is that we can find an 'antidote' to SP2, to restore normal cell proliferation to those cancer and reverse the process."

Explore further: Putting the brakes on cancer

More information: "Overexpression of Transcription Factor Sp2 Inhibits Epidermal Differentiation and Increases Susceptibility to Wound and Carcinogen-Induced Tumorigenesis", Published: Nov. 3 in Cancer Research.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ovarian cancer stem cells identified, characterized

Apr 17, 2008

Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have identified, characterized and cloned ovarian cancer stem cells and have shown that these stem cells may be the source of ovarian cancer’s recurrence and its resistance to chemotherapy.

Scientists isolate cancer stem cells

Sep 11, 2008

After years of working toward this goal, scientists at the OU Cancer Institute have found a way to isolate cancer stem cells in tumors so they can target the cells and kill them, keeping cancer from returning.

Neural stem cells attack glioblastoma cells

Jul 06, 2010

In their latest research, scientists of the Max Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, have demonstrated how the brain's own stem cells and precursor cells control the growth of glioblastomas. ...

Recommended for you

Putting the brakes on cancer

1 hour ago

A study led by the University of Dundee, in collaboration with researchers at our University, has uncovered an important role played by a tumour suppressor gene, helping scientists to better understand how ...

Peanut component linked to cancer spread

2 hours ago

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that a component of peanuts could encourage the spread and survival of cancer cells in the body.

User comments : 0

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.