High levels of a protein called LRP6 can make cancer cells more aggressive, according to Washington University researchers affiliated with the Siteman Cancer Center. The proteins ability to enhance tumor development suggests that the gene that codes for LRP6 is an oncogene--a gene that contributes to tumor development when overactivated.
"Because no one has ever connected LRP6 to proliferation in tumors, we believe we may have identified a new oncogene," says Guojun Bu, Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics and of cell biology and physiology. The findings will be reported in the December 2nd issue of the journal Oncogene. The article is available online Oct. 25. "In several types of human cancer, such as breast and colon cancer, a key cell signaling pathway that regulates cell growth and development is overactive because a gene coding for a pathway component has mutated," Bu says.
Increased signal activity from this pathway can lead to abnormal cell proliferation and ultimately to cancer, but researchers have been unable to identify the pathway component responsible for certain types of cancer such as breast cancer. "We believe LRP6 may be the missing link, the long-sought component that turns up the activity of this signaling pathway," Bu says.
Gwen Ericson | EurekAlert!
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