Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cambridge team discovers novel pathway involved in therapy-resistant cancers

02.01.2009
Scientists at The Babraham Institute have begun to unpick the complex mechanisms underpinning the development of drug resistant cancers. They have identified a novel target that may help to combat the growing problem of therapy resistant cancers and pave the way for innovative therapeutic approaches.

Their discovery, reported in the latest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, centres on the significance of DNA damage for both normal cells and cancer cells. It reveals that a biochemical signalling pathway, that normally ensures damaged cells are diverted towards cellular suicide, is blocked in certain cancers, rendering them resistant to certain types of treatment.

DNA damage is a common event in a cell’s life, a consequence of incorrect copying of the DNA during cell division or provoked by elements in our environment like tobacco smoke and sunlight. However, if DNA damage occurs, the cell normally triggers a repair response and if the damage is not repaired, the cell is targeted for cell death, a process known as apoptosis. In this way the body protects itself from cells that might become cancerous. The cells that do become cancerous manage to by-pass these repair and self-destruction pathways, promoting the survival of damaged cells.

The research is a collaboration between the BBSRC-funded Babraham Institute, the University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, using cells from patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), and polycythemia vera (PV), two myeloproliferative disorders.

Cancers, such as the leukaemias investigated in this work, are characterised by an accumulation of DNA damage. DNA damage triggers several pathways to ensure that cells die by apoptosis. The authors describe a key new pathway involved in this process, and its subversion in cancer cells.

The team have found that DNA damage in normal cells increases the activity of a proton pump located in the cell membrane, known as NHE-1, which raises the pH of the cell. This has a critical effect on a protein called Bcl-xL, known as a survival protein because of its ability to suppress cell death. However, in the more alkaline environment (higher pH) a chemical process called deamidation converts Bcl-xL into a form that allows cells with damaged DNA to die. The authors have discovered that this pathway is inhibited in (cancerous) myeloid cells, keeping them alive to proceed with their deadly mission. This is the first demonstration of a role for deamidation in human malignancy.

Both the leukaemias studied by the authors are caused by oncogenic tyrosine kinases. These are enzymes - chemical catalysts - that trigger cancer when their activity is abnormally high. These kinases not only cause cells to become cancerous in the first place, but also make the cells resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy once they have turned into cancer cells. The authors have discovered that it is these kinases that block the key Bcl-xL deamidation pathway that normally allows DNA damaged cells to die. The activated tyrosine kinase causing CML is called BCR-ABL, whereas in PV the culprit is JAK-2. Altogether more than 30 aberrant tyrosine kinases are known to cause human cancers.

“This discovery provides new insights into how oncogenes, the genes that cause cancer, allow cells to accumulate more and more damage to their DNA without dying”, explains Dr Denis Alexander. “This new understanding of how oncogenes work also opens up some interesting ideas for future cancer therapies".

Cancer therapies depend to a large degree on the DNA damage caused by chemotherapy or radiotherapy, causing cancer cells to die. However, in cancers caused by tyrosine kinases the cells are often resistant to such therapies, referred to as ‘genotoxic resistance’. Fortunately inhibitors of the oncogenic kinases are now being increasingly used in the clinic but the kinases sometimes mutate so that this therapy no longer works.

The therapeutic interest in this research comes from the authors’ finding that simply switching back on the Bcl-xL deamidation pathway causes the cancer cells to die. This can be engineered in living cells by increasing the pH inside the cells artificially, which causes the Bcl-xL to deamidate so that the cells undergo apoptosis.

This therapeutic ‘proof-of-principle’ was dramatically illustrated by studying a CML patient’s cells which had become resistant to Imatinib, the BCR-ABL inhibitor now widely used in the clinic. As expected, Imatinib was unable to restore the Bcl-xL deamidation pathway in the patient’s cells. But the resistance could be bypassed by artificially (genetically) increasing the level of NHE-1 in the drug-resistant CML cells when studied in the laboratory, so increasing cancer cell death. So drug resistance can be overcome by activating the NHE-1 pathway, thereby increasing the pH inside the cell, and in turn Bcl-xL deamidation and apoptosis.

The discovery that modulating the NHE-1/Bcl-xL signalling pathway can override resistance to controlled cell death (apoptosis) in cancers like CML and PV, paves the way for new therapeutic approaches that could be of immense importance in cancers where Bcl-xL plays a pivotal role in genotoxic resistance.

This research was supported by the Association for International Cancer Research, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the U.K. Leukaemia Research Fund, the Wellcome Trust, the U.K. Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, and the U.S. Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Dr Denis Alexander | alfa
Further information:
http://www.babraham.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

nachricht Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>