Scientists score 'hat-trick' against cancer

Jul 13, 2010

Scientists from Singapore's Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) have made three successive breakthroughs in key areas of cancer research. Their work, published in top scientific journals Cancer Cell, Nature Cell Biology, and Cancer Research, sheds light on the mechanism behind cancer metastasis, suggest why breast cancer cells live as long as they do, and show a better way to detect and fight cervical cancer.

Stopping the spread of cancer

A team of scientists led by Dr Zeng Qi , from A*STAR's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) has made a discovery about how PRL-3, a protein that plays a key role in tumorigenesis and cancer metastasis, is regulated in the body by PCBP1. Together with her collaborator Dr. Leah Vardy from A*STAR's Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB), the scientists found that PCBP1 impedes the translation of PRL-3 mRNA. Their discovery, published today in the leading journal Cancer Cell, sheds light on the role of PRL-3 in cancer and suggests possible ways to prevent metastasis, arguably the most pernicious and harmful aspect of the disease.

PRL-3 was first identified by Dr Zeng in 1998. However, the mechanism controlling the expression of PRL-3 is poorly understood. While trying to understand how PRL-3 expression is regulated in the body, the scientist discovered that PCBP1 was responsible for suppressing the expression of PRL-3. Using their , the scientists found that inducing over-expression of PCBP1 significantly reduced tumour size, suggesting that controlling levels of PCBP1 may be a means of suppressing the growth and spread of tumours in the body.

Said Dr Zeng, "The finding of PCBP1 as a potential is highly significant as a similar mechanism may be regulating other cancer genes. Since PRL-3 plays multiple tasks in contributing to cancer metastasis, we are extremely excited to discover the mechanism underlying PRL-3's expression control as it uncovers another piece of the puzzle surrounding one of the most important proteins involved in cancer."

Their findings were praised by Prof Neal Copeland, Executive Director of IMCB, who said, "This study by Drs Zeng and Vardy is a fine example of how basic research contributes to understanding processes that lead to metastasis, perhaps the most devastating aspect of cancer. There are many facets of the disease which still remain obscure at the cellular and molecular level, and this sort of painstaking research is needed in the fight against cancer."

Dr Zeng aims to undertake more research to elucidate the regulatory mechanisms surrounding PRL-3. "PRL-3's association with diverse human cancers makes it an excellent therapeutic target. An increased understanding of PRL-3 will definitely help us develop strategies to block PRL-3 expression or inhibit its activity and thus prevent it from promoting cancer metastasis, allowing us to deal a heavy blow to this most dreaded human disease," added Dr Zeng.

Shortening the life of breast cancer

Another team of scientists from IMCB led by Dr Vinay Tergaonkar have discovered a protein, Rap1, which plays an important role in . Their work, published in Nature Cell Biology showed that the presence and abundance of Rap1 could serve as biomarkers of various human illnesses including breast cancer. They also found that Rap1 could protect from self-programmed cell death and that Rap1 levels in breast tumours might be responsible for cancer cell metastasis, making the protein an excellent target for cancer therapies.

A more sensitive test for cervical cancer

The third team of scientists led by Dr Francoise Thierry of IMB discovered that the human papillomavirus (HPV) E2 protein could be used for the early detection of HPV . Their work, published in , is a step forward in the fight against , the second cause of death by cancer in women worldwide. Dr Thierry, together with Drs Jeffrey Low and Diana Lim of the National University Health System, Singapore, showed that HPV detection methods based on HPV E2 were more sensitive than methods based on detection of the HPV DNA. Furthermore, the presence of HPV E2 was intimately linked to the progression of cervical cancer, and could therefore help to control the progression of the disease.

Explore further: DNA alternative to Pap smear sparks medical debate (Update)

Provided by Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

4.7 /5 (3 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A new molecular marker of gastric cancer

Mar 30, 2009

Gastric cancer (GC) is one of the most common malignancies in the world with a high incidence and death rate. TNM staging system is used worldwide to predict prognosis and direct therapeutic decisions of patients with GC. ...

HPV virus linked to breast cancer

Jun 11, 2007

A virus that can be sexually transmitted has been found in some patients with breast and other cancers, it was reported Sunday.

'Bridge' protein spurs deadliest stages of breast cancer

Feb 22, 2007

A protein known for its ability to "bridge" interactions between other cellular proteins may spur metastasis in breast cancer, the disease’s deadliest stage, a study from Burnham Institute for Medical Research has found.

Researchers find clue to stopping breast-cancer metastasis

Nov 17, 2008

If scientists knew exactly what a breast cancer cell needs to spread, then they could stop the most deadly part of the disease: metastasis. New research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine ...

Key mechanism identified in metastatic breast cancer

May 04, 2010

Scientists at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center have identified a key molecular mechanism in breast cancer that enables tumor cells to spread to adjacent or distant parts of the body in a process called metastasis. ...

Recommended for you

DNA alternative to Pap smear sparks medical debate (Update)

15 hours ago

A high-tech screening tool for cervical cancer is facing pushback from more than a dozen American patient groups, who warn that the genetic test could displace a simpler, cheaper and more established mainstay of women's health: ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

ESO image: A study in scarlet

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

First direct observations of excitons in motion achieved

A quasiparticle called an exciton—responsible for the transfer of energy within devices such as solar cells, LEDs, and semiconductor circuits—has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within ...

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...