Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Genetic testing could bolster radiotherapy’s effectiveness against cancer


Obtaining a genetic picture of how a tumor will react to the many treatment techniques available could help doctors prescribe therapies customized for individual cancer patients’ needs, suggests a Purdue University research team.

A group of scientists including Jian-Jian "J.J." Li has found a trio of proteins often present in cancer cells that protect the tumor from destruction by radiotherapy. Because no single protein in the group is responsible for keeping the cancer alive, Li said that the key to a successful assault could rest in a deeper understanding of the relationship among these protein molecules – an understanding that could be made available through genetic testing.

"We have discovered that breast cancer cells defend themselves on the molecular level against radiation, and this response could be reducing the effectiveness of modern medicine’s fight against cancer," said Li, who is an associate professor of health sciences in Purdue’s School of Health Sciences. "Because these three proteins interact in ways peculiar to each tumor, it might help doctors to first obtain the ’genetic fingerprint’ of cancerous tissue in order to find out which treatment method will be most effective."

The research appears in this week’s issue of the Journal of Biochemistry. Li’s co-authors include researchers from the City of Hope National Medical Center, Bio-Rad Laboratories and the National Institutes of Health.

All living cells are kept alive through the efforts of thousands of different proteins, each of which may have many different and interrelated functions. Proteins are brought into action, or "expressed," by genes in the cell’s DNA when certain needs arise – such as reproduction or metabolizing energy. Three such proteins found in most human cells have been the focus of Li’s research for several years, each of which is commonly known to scientists by a technical name: ERK, NF-kappa B and GADD45 beta. "In healthy cells, these three proteins all play a role in building new cellular structures, allowing the body to grow and regenerate," Li said. "Each has individual functions that are well known. NF-kappa B and ERK, for example, work as construction managers that tell the genes where more building blocks are needed and how they should be arranged, while GADD45 beta helps repair damage to DNA. This helps keep a cell from mutating as it grows."

NF-kappa B beta is known to be present in abnormally high amounts in tumors. However, scientists also have noticed that after the NF-kappa B has been inhibited, the cancer cells are less responsive to radiotherapy. Apparently, Li said, the presence of the protein keeps tumor cells alive despite receiving a punishing amount of radiation that ordinarily would kill them. "Previous research has also implicated NF-kappa B in this type of radioresistance to cancer," Li said. "No one really knew what was happening. But the issue needed resolution because, once again, we were confronting the standard dilemma in cancer treatment: How do you destroy the cancer without damaging the surrounding healthy cells?"

Li’s group found that it was not just one of these proteins that was fighting hard to save the cells – it was all three. After subjecting breast cancer cells in the lab to the stress of ionizing radiation, the group found that the proteins all are co-activated in a pattern of mutual dependence, coordinating among themselves to increase cell survival rate. "The essence of our discovery can expressed rather simply," Li said. "Genes in the body do not operate in isolation, but as a team. This is the sort of lesson we will probably learn again and again as the recently decoded human genome reveals more of its secrets."

Indeed, it could be in the genome that a solution to the dilemma will be found, Li said. "If we can test cancer cells not for just three proteins but for thousands, the ’genetic fingerprint’ such a test would provide might help us to devise better therapies to kill tumors," he said. "Knowing in general that proteins A, B and C are defending the cell may allow us to administer drugs that block them, which could allow us to irradiate the now-defenseless cancer with lower radiation levels. This would be simultaneously more effective against the cancer and less harmful to the patient in general."

In the case of breast cancer cells, the proteins in question are ERK, NF-kappa B and GADD45 beta. But Li said that this was probably the first of many discoveries that relate proteins to one another in such a fashion. "These three proteins are most likely the tip of the iceberg," Li said. "This discovery is all about interaction, which goes beyond any one protein or gene expression. People used to think NF-kappa B was just a gene regulator. Now we realize it could be part of a signaling network that decides the pattern of gene expression – a pattern that remains mysterious."

This research was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute and the Department of Energy.

Li is associated with the Purdue Cancer Center. One of just eight National Cancer Institute-designated basic-research facilities in the United States, the center attempts to help cancer patients by identifying new molecular targets and designing future agents and drugs for effectively detecting and treating cancer.

Writer: Chad Boutin, (765) 494-2081,

Source: Jian-Jian Li,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Chad Boutin | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Don't Give the Slightest Chance to Toxic Elements in Medicinal Products
23.03.2018 | Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)

nachricht North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>