Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Small molecules - large effect: How cancer cells ensure their survival

17.12.2008
A team of researchers headed by Professor Roland Stauber of Mainz University's ENT clinic has identified a molecular mechanism used by cancer cells to "defend" themselves against chemotherapeutics in an attempt to ensure their own survival.

Both the messenger substance nitrogen monoxide (NO) and the protein survivin play a role in this. The results of the study, carried out in patients with head-neck tumors, recently appeared in the International Journal of Cancer (Fetz et al., 2008).

In another publication in the journal Cancer Research (Engels et al., 2008), which appeared in the summer of this year, researchers had already reported the discovery of a similar mechanism in ovarian cancer. This raises the possibility that the "NO/survivin axis" may be a common denominator that plays a role in a large number of different types of cancer.

Every year, at least 10,000 people develop malignant cancer of the head-neck region. Despite a positive outcome after surgery, radiotherapy, and/or chemotherapy, the majority of these patients suffer a relapse after initial treatment, with the development of distant metastases being a frequent complication. The molecular causes of the development and progression of head-neck cancers and their response to treatment are still not yet adequately understood.

In the recent comprehensive study, researchers from the University Hospital of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz were for the first time able to identify the molecular mechanism by which the messenger substance nitrogen monoxide (NO) contributes towards the growth and the resistance to treatment of head-neck cancers. NO plays a role in numerous physiological but also pathological processes: Thus, for example, most cancer cells produce increased amounts of NO and in result appear to gain a survival advantage. Until recently, it was not clear how they do this. The researchers in Mainz have now managed to demonstrate that NO or the NO-producing protein - known as iNOS in medical jargon - induces the synthesis of another protein called survivin. The name survivin is derived from the verb "to survive", which also offers a clue to its function: survivin was only recently identified by researchers as one of the central factors important with regard to the occurrence of relapses and the resistance of head-neck cancers to treatment, as it prevents the programmed death (apoptosis) of cancerous cells. (Engels et al., 2007) The increased formation of iNOS - and therefore the messenger substance NO - results in activation of certain signal pathways in the cancer cells, which ultimately leads to an increase in the production of survivin. Its properties as an inhibitor of programmed cell death are in turn exploited by the cancer cells to protect themselves against attack by chemo- or radiotherapy so that cancer cells employ, as it were, the "iNOS/survivin" axis as a survival aid.

"This new molecular understanding of the defense mechanisms of cancer cells now allows us to focus on these defensive mechanisms," reports Professor Roland Stauber, head of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology. The results of tests conducted on cultured cancer cells within the framework of this study have been promising, as they have shown that the combined use of chemical iNOS inhibitors and a blockade of survivin synthesis can efficiently kill off tumor cells.

The researchers are even one step ahead: "We already managed to demonstrate earlier this year that this is a mechanism that is not simply restricted to head-neck cancers when we discovered the significance of the iNOS/survivin axis in ovarian cancer," explained Professor Stauber. "These results confirm our multidisciplinary approach, in which we conduct basic research to identify mechanisms the effects of which can then be verified in a range of tumor entities in close co-operation with various medical disciplines. This also allows us to quickly and effectively identify mechanisms that are not restricted to a specific indication. This ultimately benefits patients, as the results of the initial research benefit them sooner."

The challenge for the clinicians and researchers now lies in testing the efficacy and safety of this strategy in tumor models, thus better enabling them to assess the potential clinical benefits of the approach. "These complex investigations can, however, only be carried out with the help of national sponsors," pointed out Professor Stauber. "We therefore hope that we will continue to receive support for our indication-overlapping research strategy in the future."

Prof. Dr. Roland H. Stauber | alfa
Further information:
http://www.stauber-lab.de
http://www.uni-mainz.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Molecular evolution: How the building blocks of life may form in space
26.04.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht Multifunctional bacterial microswimmer able to deliver cargo and destroy itself
26.04.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Intelligente Systeme

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Why we need erasable MRI scans

New technology could allow an MRI contrast agent to 'blink off,' helping doctors diagnose disease

Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a widely used medical tool for taking pictures of the insides of our body. One way to make MRI scans easier to read is...

Im Focus: BAM@Hannover Messe: innovative 3D printing method for space flight

At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.

Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...

Im Focus: Molecules Brilliantly Illuminated

Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.

Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

World's smallest optical implantable biodevice

26.04.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Molecular evolution: How the building blocks of life may form in space

26.04.2018 | Life Sciences

First Li-Fi-product with technology from Fraunhofer HHI launched in Japan

26.04.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>