Researchers discover expanded role for cancer-causing gene

Nov 08, 2010
Dr. Shulamit Katzav-Shapira (left) with her doctoral student, Galit Lazer, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Credit: Hebrew University photo by Douglas Guthrie

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have discovered that Vav1 – an oncogene (cancer-causing gene) found in recent years to be one of the factors in tumorous tissue growth -- plays a wider role in several types of cancer than had previously been thought. The discovery has implications for further concentration on targeting this gene in cancer research.

The work of the researchers, led by Dr. Shulamit Katzav-Shapira of the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Medicine, was published recently in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Vav1 has been known to be involved in alterations in gene expression in the immune system, where it is physiologically expressed. Vav1 was discovered a few years ago by Katzav-Shapira when she was working in the National Institute laboratory of Dr. Mariano Barbacid in the US. Since this newly identified gene represented the sixth oncogene detected in Dr. Barbacid's laboratory, it was designated by Katzav-Shapira as Vav (six in Hebrew) 1.

Vav1 is involved in the process whereby cells are "triggered" into action. When receptors on the surface of a cell, known as growth factor receptors, receive signals for growth, they relay this information into the cell. This chain of command is often called a "signal transduction cascade" or a "pathway." Signal transduction cascades play a fundamental role in controlling normal cell proliferation, differentiation, cell adhesion, spontaneous movement, and programmed cell death.

Mutations in the proteins driving this signal transduction process are among the main causes for driving cells to develop into cancer. Thus, identification of the signal transducers that are involved in malignant transformation is a prerequisite for understanding cancer and improving its diagnosis and treatment. Since Vav1 was shown to be involved in events leading to alterations in gene expression in the immune system, it is a "key player" in this process.

Now, mutated Vav1 has been shown by Dr. Katzav-Shapira and others to be highly expressed also in neuroblasoma (a cancer that forms in nerve tissue), pancreatic and lung cancer. Indeed, it was surprisingly found to be expressed in 44% of malignant human lung cancer tissue samples that were studied. Since, say the researchers, Vav1 has now been shown to play a role in the process of abnormal tissue growth in several human cancers, it has become an even more highly important potential therapeutic target for cancer therapy.

Explore further: Scientists map out how childhood brain tumors relapse

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers ID gene involved in pancreatic cancer

Mar 02, 2009

Researchers from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have identified a gene that is overexpressed in 90 percent of pancreatic cancers, the most deadly type of cancer.

Researchers make major signal transduction discovery

Oct 04, 2007

The chemical process known as acetylation plays a central role in cytokine receptor signal transduction – a fundamental biochemical cascade inside cells that controls the activity of antiviral and tumor-suppressing genes.

Growth factor receptor affects prostate cancer progression

Dec 10, 2007

Breeding mice with a gene for a cellular receptor that can be turned on and off-at will-not only enabled researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston to show how prostate cancer progresses, but also provides a model ...

Recommended for you

Putting the brakes on cancer

5 hours 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

6 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.