Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Wound-healing genes influence cancer progression, say Stanford researchers


Genes that help wounds heal are most often the "good guys," but a new study paints them as the enemy in some types of cancer. Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have found that some tumors activate these wound-healing genes and, when they do, the tumors are more likely to spread. This work could help highlight new ways to treat the disease along with helping doctors decide which cancers to approach more aggressively.

"This is a feature we can find early on in the disease and it could change the way cancer is treated," said Howard Chang, MD, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar and lead author of the paper. The work appears in the Jan. 19 edition of Public Library of Science Biology.

The research group, led by Patrick Brown, MD, PhD, professor of biochemistry, took an unusual approach in finding the telltale genes. In most studies, scientists analyze tumor samples and look for genes that are more active compared to normal tissue. Such studies have produced long lists of genes involved in cancer biology but don’t provide clues about what role those genes may be playing.

Chang started from the opposite direction. He knew wound healing and cancer progression had some similarities, including the growth of new blood vessels, rearrangement of the molecular matrix around the cells and changes in how cells attach to each other. "Wound healing is a process that allows cells to break normal constraints on their growth and cross boundaries. If a cell can access that program, that’s a good environment for cancer," Chang said.

The researchers started by finding which genes are active in cells exposed to clotted blood as a model of cells in the wound-healing process. Then Chang and his colleagues looked to see whether those same genes were active in tumor samples.

The researchers found that prostate and liver cancers always activated wound-healing genes, while tumors in the breast, colon and prostate were mixed. In these variable tissues, tumors with active wound-healing genes turned out to be highly aggressive and were more likely to spread to other tissues.

Chang said assessing wound-healing genes could help doctors choose the best treatment for a patient. "There are a lot of drugs that work only on certain type of cancers. If you realize that different drugs work on a specific abnormality, doctors can match the drug to the problem," he said.

The best-known example of such pharmaceutical matchmaking is the drug Herceptin, which specifically treats breast cancers with an active version of the gene Her2/Neu.

Most doctors don’t have the ability to screen tumor samples for active genes, but they routinely test for the presence of proteins made by genes, as with Her2/Neu. Julie Sneddon, a biochemistry graduate student and second author on the paper, has been working on a similar test to identify tumors that churn out wound-healing proteins.

Chang said the next step is learning how best to treat tumors that produce these proteins. Because wound healing is a well-understood process, researchers may be able to disrupt the process and slow the cancer’s spread. "There are drugs coming out that block blood vessel growth, so perhaps those drugs should be targeted to this population of patients," Chang said.

Additional Stanford researchers who contributed to this work include postdoctoral scholars Ruchira Sood, PhD, and Jen-Tsan Chi, MD, PhD; Ash Alizadeh, MD, PhD, a former graduate student; Rob West, MD, PhD, clinical instructor of pathology; Kelli Montgomery, research associate; and Matt van de Rijn, MD, PhD, associate professor of pathology.

Stanford University Medical Center integrates research, medical education and patient care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. For more information, please visit the Web site of the medical center’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs at

Broadcast media contact: M.A. Malone at 650-723-6912 (

Amy Adams | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

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...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
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

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

TRAPPIST-1 planets provide clues to the nature of habitable worlds

21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

The search for dark matter widens

21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Natural enemies reduce pesticide use

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>