In a study published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Oxford discovered a critical molecular switch that regulates autophagy. They also studied the links between autophagy and a cellular process called senescence that stops cell growth permanently.
The researchers identified ASPP2, a tumor suppressor, as a molecular switch that can dictate the ability of a common cancer gene, known as the RAS oncogene, to either stop or promote senescence.
As Yihua Wang and researchers in Xin Lu's group at the Ludwig Institute investigated the life cycle of fibroblast cells – the most common connective tissue cells in animals – they found that reduced levels of the ASPP2 protein increase RAS oncogene-induced autophagic activity. This in turn prevented cells from entering senescence. Without ASPP2, the cells continued to proliferate unchecked, thereby promoting tumor growth.
ASPP2 is known to play a role in suppressing tumor development. Mice that have a deficiency or malfunction in this protein have a predisposition to developing tumors. And low ASPP2 levels in patients are linked to poor prognoses in cancers, such as large B-cell lymphomas. Reduced ASPP2 expression has also been observed in highly metastatic breast tumors. But until now, researchers did not understand why.
"We found that in the presence of the common cancer-causing RAS oncogene, ASPP2 interacted with a protein complex that is responsible for deciding cell fate via autophagy," said Yihua Wang, PhD, Ludwig researcher in Oxford.
"What this means is that the cell's emergency stop button is disabled when ASPP2 expression is reduced or lost, allowing it to proliferate unchecked as with cancer," added Wang.
"The balance between the RAS oncogene and ASPP2 activity is crucial to determining whether or not tumor growth is promoted. Our next step will be to identify ways to alter ASPP2 activity at that critical switch point. This could be an effective way to treat cancers with reduced ASPP2 expression and mutated RAS, such as breast and colon cancers," concluded Wang.
"Some of the recently developed anti-cancer drugs are potent inducers of autophagy. The new findings may also offer an explanation as to why patient response to these drugs can vary dramatically. There are factors at play within the body that can dictate authophagic activity and impact clinical outcomes," said Xin Lu, PhD, director of Ludwig's Oxford Branch. "While further study is needed, these findings may in the longer term help doctors to identify patients who are more likely to respond well to autophagic inhibition," added Lu.
About The Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research
LICR is an international non-profit organization committed to improving the understanding and control of cancer through integrated laboratory and clinical discovery. Leveraging its worldwide network of investigators and the ability to sponsor and conduct its own clinical trials, the Institute is actively engaged in translating its discoveries into applications for patient benefit. Since its establishment in 1971, the Institute has expended more than $1.5 billion on cancer research.
Rachel Steinhardt | EurekAlert!
Discovery of a Key Regulatory Gene in Cardiac Valve Formation
24.05.2017 | Universität Basel
Carcinogenic soot particles from GDI engines
24.05.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
17.05.2017 | Event News
24.05.2017 | Life Sciences
24.05.2017 | Life Sciences
24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy