Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Biologists Pinpoint a Genetic Change That Helps Tumors Move to Other Parts of the Body

MIT cancer biologists have identified a genetic change that makes lung tumors more likely to spread to other parts of the body. The findings, to be published in the April 6 online issue of Nature, offers new insight into how lung cancers metastasize and could help identify drug targets to combat metastatic tumors, which account for 90 percent of cancer deaths.

The researchers, led by Tyler Jacks, director of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, found the alteration while studying a mouse model of lung cancer. They then compared their mouse data to genetic profiles of human lung tumors and found that reduced activity of the same gene, NKX2-1, is associated with higher death rates for lung-cancer patients.

This study represents an important step in understanding how changes that disable this gene would make tumors more aggressive, says Monte Winslow, a senior postdoctoral associate in Jacks’ lab and lead author of a paper.

Understanding the role of NKX2-1 may help scientists pursue drugs that could counteract its loss. Right now, “the sad reality is that if you could tell a patient whether their cancer has turned down this gene, you would know they will have a worse outcome, but it wouldn’t change the treatment,” Winslow says.

Winslow and his colleagues at the Koch Institute studied mice that are genetically programmed to develop lung tumors. The mice’s lung cells can be induced to express an activated form of the cancer-causing gene Kras, and the tumor suppressor gene p53 is deleted. While all of those mice develop lung tumors, only a subset of those tumors metastasizes, suggesting that additional changes are required for the cancer to spread.

The researchers analyzed the genomes of metastatic and non-metastatic tumors in hopes of finding some genetic differences that would account for the discrepancy. The absence of NKX2-1 activity in metastatic tumors was the most striking difference, Winslow says.

The NKX2-1 gene codes for a transcription factor — a protein that controls expression of other genes. Its normal function is to control development of the lung, as well as the thyroid and some parts of the brain. When cancerous cells turn down the expression of the gene, they appear to revert to an immature state and gain the ability to detach from the lungs and spread through the body, seeding new tumors.

Once the researchers identified NKX2-1 as a gene important to metastasis, they started to look into the effects of the genes that it regulates. They zeroed in on a gene called HMGA2, which had been previously implicated in other types of cancer. It appears that NKX2-1 represses HMGA2 in adult tissues. When NKX2-1 is shut off in cancer cells, HMGA2 turns back on and helps the tumor to become more aggressive.

They also found that human tumors with NKX2-1 missing and HMGA turned on tended to be metastatic, though not all metastatic tumors fit that profile.

It would be difficult to target NKX2-1 with a drug because it’s much harder to develop drugs that turn a gene back on than shut it off, Winslow noted. A more promising possibility is targeting HMGA2 or other genes that NKX2-1 represses.

Jacks’ lab is now looking at other types of cancer, to see if NKX2-1 or HMGA2 have the same role in other metastatic cancers. “It’s great to find something that’s important in lung cancer metastasis, but it would be even better if it controlled metastasis in even a subset of other cancer types,” Winslow says.

Patti Richards | Newswise Science News
Further information:

Further reports about: Genetic clues HMGA2 NKX2-1 death rate lung cancer metastatic tumors

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>