Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Natural anti-viral enzyme helps keep cancer cells alive, researchers find

A molecule that cells normally use to fight viruses is also involved in keeping cancer cells alive, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have discovered.

The anti-viral molecule, called TBK-1, was found to be essential for cancer cells to live, so blocking it might point to a treatment for fighting cancer, the researchers report in today's issue of Cell.

"We got the surprise that this mechanism is involved in cancer cell survival, even though it's normally involved in immune response," said Dr. Michael White, associate professor of cell biology. "We found something a little bit different — an Achilles' heel of cancer cells that's apparently broadly conserved among many types of solid tumors."

Using cultured human cells, the researchers set out to study enzymes known to be involved in keeping cancer cells alive and proliferating. They soon narrowed the focus to one called RalB. This molecule is part of the Ras family of enzymes, which are mutated in 30 percent of all cancers and in 90 percent of pancreatic cancers.

The UT Southwestern scientists knew that RalB interacts with a protein complex called the exocyst, which helps small secretory packets in cells fuse to the cell membrane. The team isolated this complex, then chemically analyzed the proteins attached to it.

One protein they found on the exocyst, TBK-1, is known to be involved in cells' anti-viral response.

"There was nothing known about that mechanism to suggest how TBK-1 could drive cancer cell survival," Dr. White said.

The researchers found that TBK-1 is turned off in healthy cells unless the immune response is stimulated but was always active in the cancerous cells they studied. When they blocked the function of TBK-1 in both the cancerous and healthy cells, cancer cells died while healthy cells survived.

A German research team has studied clinical samples of tumors and found elevated levels of TBK-1, Dr. White said.

The TBK-1 action is part of an immune reaction called the "host defense response," which is distinct from the "adaptive" immune process, in which the body creates new antibodies against invading pathogens. A great deal is currently understood about how the adaptive immune system fights cancer and also helps create tissue environments permissive to cancer, Dr. White said, but a cancer-promoting role for the host defense response has not been previously seen.

It's a straightforward matter to block the action of TBK-1, so this might be a promising avenue for new cancer treatments, Dr. White said. Because that would also interfere with the body's immune function, however, a balance would have to be found between killing cancer cells and compromising a patient's ability to fight disease.

UT Southwestern researchers are now looking for chemicals that block TBK-1. They are also screening cancer cells for similar biochemical pathways essential to their survival but not essential in normal cells.

"This is making us think that there are many other surprises awaiting discovery regarding biological systems that are inappropriately subverted during development of cancer," Dr. White said.

Other UT Southwestern researchers involved in the study were Dr. Yu-chen Chien, postdoctoral researcher in cell biology; Dr. Sungchan Kim, senior research associate in biochemistry; Ron Bumeister, research scientist in physiology; Dr. Yueh-Ming Loo, postdoctoral researcher in microbiology; Dr. Sung Won Kwon, a former postdoctoral researcher in biochemistry now at Seoul National University; Cynthia Johnson, a microbiology student in the Medical Scientist Training Program; Dr. Michael Gale, associate professor of microbiology; and Dr. Yingming Zhao, associate professor of biochemistry. Researchers from the Institut Curie in France and the University of Iowa also participated.

The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Robert E. Welch Foundation, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program.

Aline McKenzie | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Associate Cancer TBK-1 anti-viral cancer cells involved

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | 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: 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...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

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

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>