Scientists define molecular on-off switches for cancer and autoimmunity

Sep 30, 2010

A new report published in the October 2010 print issue of The FASEB Journal offers a ray of hope in the search for new cancer drugs. By examining the seemingly conflicting roles of how oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes handle cellular stress, scientists from the Institute for Advanced Studies in New Jersey argue that each of these opposing systems could be potent drug targets in the effort to stop cancer. In addition, their hypothesis provides new insights into what contributes to immunological disorders such as chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases.

"We hope the ideas put forward in this article will stimulate additional experiments to test these novel concepts," said Arnold Levine, Ph.D., co-author of the study from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. "Among those experiments are the synthesis of new drugs to inhibit pathways that could change the course of a disease."

After a review of existing experimental literature, Levine and colleagues concluded that a new class of drugs could be developed to address the conflicting nature of oncogenes and . Specifically, the research paper published in The examines the roles of the and the oncogene, NF-kappaB. The p53 suppressor limits the consequences of stress by initiating cell death and promoting metabolic patterns in the cell. The oncogene NF-kappaB on the other hand, promotes cell division resulting in the synthesis of substrates for cell division.

These two cellular responses, both of which have evolved to handle different types of stress, have adopted opposite strategies and cannot function in the same cell at the same time. As a result, Levine and colleagues speculate that drugs could be developed to take advantage of the fact that if one factor is activated, the other is rendered inactive. This could be achieved at several places in both the p53 and NF-kappaB pathways where regulatory proteins act on both with opposite functional consequences.

"Our cells use the p53 and NF-kappaB pathways to respond to cellular stress: one controls cancer, the other immunity. If they get out of balance, we're in trouble.," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "Thanks to this work we can start restore the balance by means of new drugs."

Explore further: Taking the guesswork out of cancer therapy

More information: Prashanth Ak and Arnold J. Levine. p53 and NF-kappaB: different strategies for responding to stress lead to a functional antagonism FASEB J. 2010 24: 3643-3652. DOI: 10.1096/fj.10-160549

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Protein is linked to lung cancer development

Oct 22, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A protein that normally helps defend cells from infection can play a critical role in the development of lung cancer, according to MIT cancer biologists.

Pathway links inflammation, angiogenesis and breast cancer

Aug 09, 2007

A well-known inflammatory protein spawns an enzyme that inactivates two tumor-suppressing genes, ultimately triggering production of new blood vessels to nourish breast cancer cells, researchers at The University of Texas ...

Recommended for you

Pepper and halt: Spicy chemical may inhibit gut tumors

10 hours ago

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report that dietary capsaicin – the active ingredient in chili peppers – produces chronic activation of a receptor on cells lining ...

Expressive writing may help breast cancer survivors

11 hours ago

Writing down fears, emotions and the benefits of a cancer diagnosis may improve health outcomes for Asian-American breast cancer survivors, according to a study conducted by a researcher at the University of Houston (UH).

Taking the guesswork out of cancer therapy

17 hours ago

Researchers and doctors at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) have co-developed the first molecular test ...

Brain tumour cells found circulating in blood

18 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—German scientists have discovered rogue brain tumour cells in patient blood samples, challenging the idea that this type of cancer doesn't generally spread beyond the brain.

International charge on new radiation treatment for cancer

19 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—Imagine a targeted radiation therapy for cancer that could pinpoint and blast away tumors more effectively than traditional methods, with fewer side effects and less damage to surrounding tissues and organs.

User comments : 0