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Lower Levels of Key Protein Influence Tumor Growth in Mice, Stanford Study Shows.

STANFORD, Calif. -- Tumors need a healthy supply of blood to grow and spread. Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine Stanford University School of Medicine is affiliated with Stanford University and is located at Stanford University Medical Center in Stanford, California, adjacent to Palo Alto and Menlo Park.  have identified a molecule that regulates blood vessel blood vessel
n.
An elastic tubular channel, such as an artery, a vein, a sinus, or a capillary, through which the blood circulates.


blood vessel(s),
n the network of muscular tubes that carry blood.
 growth that is often found at less-than-normal levels in human tumors. Blocking the expression of the molecule, called PHD2, allows human cancer cells cells once believed to be peculiar to cancers, but now know to be epithelial cells differing in no respect from those found elsewhere in the body, and distinguished only by peculiarity of location and grouping.

See also: Cancer
 to grow more quickly when implanted into mice and increases the number of blood vessels Blood vessels

Tubular channels for blood transport, of which there are three principal types: arteries, capillaries, and veins. Only the larger arteries and veins in the body bear distinct names.
 feeding the tumor.

"It appears to be acting as a tumor suppressor sup·pres·sor  
n.
1. or sup·press·er One that suppresses: a suppressor of free speech.

2. A gene that suppresses the phenotypic expression of another gene, especially of a mutant gene.
 by negatively controlling blood vessel formation," said cancer biologist Amato Giaccia, PhD, the Jack, Lulu and Sam Willson Professor and professor of radiation oncology radiation oncology
n.
The branch of radiology that deals with the use of ionizing radiation to treat cancers.


radiation oncology 
. He and his colleagues are hopeful that targeting the downstream molecules activated when PHD2 levels are low may be an effective treatment for a variety of human cancers.

Giaccia is the senior author of the research, which will be published in the June 2 issue of the journal Cancer Cell. He is also a member of Stanford's Cancer Center.

The finding was particularly surprising because PHD2 was already known to play a less-direct role in blood vessel formation: that of destabilizing another important cancer-associated protein, HIF-1. HIF-1, which stimulates blood vessel development, is induced by the low oxygen levels found in many solid tumors. Although the HIF-1 molecule is rarely modified in human cancers, its levels are often elevated as compared to normal tissue. Giaccia and his colleagues wondered if the higher levels of HIF-1 could be explained by decreases in the level of PHD2.

The researchers measured PHD2 levels in several human tumor samples, including breast and colon cancers, and compared them with surrounding tissue. They found that, in many cancers, the tumors did have lower-than-normal levels of PHD2. They then inhibited the expression of PHD2 in a variety of human cancer cells in the lab, transplanted these cells into mice with compromised immune systems and examined the tumors that resulted. Those arising from cells in which PHD2 expression had been blocked grew more quickly and were more highly vascularized than the unmodified Adj. 1. unmodified - not changed in form or character
unqualified - not limited or restricted; "an unqualified denial"

modified - changed in form or character; "their modified stand made the issue more acceptable"; "the performance of the modified aircraft
 control cells.

Surprisingly, however, these effects of PHD2 inhibition were evident even in cells engineered not to express HIF-1. "Nobody expected this," said Giaccia. "It's always been thought that the major role of PHD2 was in regulating HIF-1 activity. But now we've learned that it seems to control tumor growth through blood vessel formation in a variety of different cell types on its own."

Upon further investigation, the researchers learned that blocking PHD2 expression increases the levels of two other important proteins involved in vessel formation: IL-8 and angiogenin. The researchers believe that blocking the activity of these proteins may be a good way to stunt tumor growth. "Prior to this study," said Giaccia, "it was unclear which of the many proteins involved in vessel growth, or angiogenesis angiogenesis /an·gio·gen·e·sis/ (-jen´e-sis) vasculogenesis; development of blood vessels either in the embryo or in the form of neovascularization or revascularization.

an·gi·o·gen·e·sis
n.
, should be targeted. But now we know they play a predominant role in tumor growth."

He and his colleagues are planning to continue their studies in laboratory mice engineered to develop breast cancer. They will investigate whether a version of the mice lacking PHD2 expression develops more aggressive tumors, and whether blocking IL-8 or angiogenin slows tumor growth.

In addition to Giaccia, other Stanford researchers involved in the work include postdoctoral post·doc·tor·al   also post·doc·tor·ate
adj.
Of, relating to, or engaged in academic study beyond the level of a doctoral degree.

Noun 1.
 scholar Denise Chan, PhD; graduate student Tiara Kawahara; and associate professor of dermatology Howard Chang, MD, PhD. The study was funded by a Silicon Valley Community Fellowship, the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health.

The Stanford University School of Medicine consistently ranks among the nation's top 10 medical schools, integrating research, medical education, patient care and community service. For more news about the school, please visit http://mednews.stanford.edu. The medical school is part of Stanford Medicine, which includes Stanford Hospital Stanford Hospital is located at 300 Pasteur Drive, Stanford, California, 94305.[1] It is world-renowned for its work in cardiovascular medicine and surgery, organ transplantation, neurology, neurosurgery, and cancer diagnosis and treatment.  & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Lucile Packard Children's Hospital (LPCH) is a hospital located on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, California. It is staffed by over 650 physicians and 4,750 staff and volunteers. . For information about all three, please visit http://stanfordmedicine.org/about/news.html.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Jun 1, 2009
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