This in turn provides clues to more effective therapies for both cancer and cardiovascular diseases, but requires researchers in these distinct fields to come together.
The seeds were sown for closer cooperation between these two groups at a recent workshop organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF), which also highlighted the striking progress already made in understanding key common mechanisms underlying both disease categories.
The workshop kicked off by considering one of the most important molecular processes common to a number of cancers and cardiovascular disease, involving the pathway known as the endothelin axis. The endothelium is the thin layer of cells lining every blood vessel of the body from the smallest capillaries to the largest arteries and even the heart itself. This layer separates the blood from the vessel walls and the smooth muscles whose contractions restrict and control blood flow. These muscle contractions are controlled by proteins called endothelins manufactured by the endothelium cells, and if there are too many of them blood flow is restricted too much, leading to hypertension (high blood pressure) and participating in other conditions such as acute coronary syndrome and stroke.
However some endothelins are also signalling molecules promoting growth and retarding the natural process of apoptosis (cell death) involved in eliminating cells. Some tumour cells, for example in ovarian carcinoma, exploit endothelins to suppress their death while migrating to other parts of the body in the metastasis process, enabling the tumour to spread, usually with fatal results.
Understanding the endothelin axis and its role in both cancer and cardiovascular disease is now increasing as a result of collaboration between these two medical research fields spawned by the ESF workshop and similar events elsewhere in the world. But until recently the role of endothelins had been studied mostly in the context of cardiovascular disease rather than cancer, according to M. Giovanna Trivella, the ESF workshop's convenor from the Institute of Clinical Physiology at the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) in Pisa.
Conversely, angiogenesis, which is the sprouting of new blood vessels from existing ones, has been studied mostly for its role in tumour growth, and not so much as a possible therapy for heart disease by developing new blood vessels to replace existing damaged ones. Yet the same underlying molecular pathways are at work in both cases, with great potential for synergy between the two research camps.
The workshop also heard how the overlap between cancer and cardiovascular disease was not of concern purely for research and development of new therapies, but also had practical considerations for immediate treatment now. "Many patients who receive chemotherapies develop heart failure symptoms, and the cardiologists have to interact with the oncology (cancer) specialists to make complex therapeutic decisions," said Trivella. So there is already interaction between the two groups out in the hospitals.
There has also been an overlap for some years in the imaging technologies that play a role in studying both types of disease in the laboratory. Positron electron tomography in particular has been used in both fields, producing images of the body region, such as a tumour, under study. "The Positron Electron Tomography Laboratory started years ago has been used to study the field of cardiac microcirculation and ischemic myocardial metabolism, and yet later on it also became a powerful tool in oncological diagnostic procedures," said Trivella.
There is also overlap between cardiovascular disease and cancer at the level of gene expression and regulation within cells, and in particular the role of small RNA molecules called micro RNAs. These molecules do not perform the role of RNA as traditionally understood in carrying genetic information from the DNA of genes to the protein factories called ribosomes. Instead they control the expression of genes themselves, and when this goes wrong, inflammatory processes can be triggered that in turn increase the risk of both cardiovascular diseases and cancers.
"The future direction is to investigate whether and how the different gene networks regulated by micro RNAs are organized as a whole," said Giuseppe Rainaldi, the co-convenor of the workshop. "These studies will be necessary in order to understand complex biological processes and to approach micro RNA based therapy in a more efficient way."
Thomas Lau | alfa
Team discovers how bacteria exploit a chink in the body's armor
20.01.2017 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Rabies viruses reveal wiring in transparent brains
19.01.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences