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HMGA1 as a Potential Common Mechanism in Cancer

Posted: May 5, 2013 at 2:58 am

Any mechanism that appears common to all cancers, or even just a wide range of cancers, is worth examination to see if it might serve as the basis for a therapy. Here is an example of speculative research of this nature:

[Researchers] have identified a gene that, when repressed in tumor cells, puts a halt to cell growth and a range of processes needed for tumors to enlarge and spread to distant sites. The researchers hope that this so-called "master regulator" gene may be the key to developing a new treatment for tumors resistant to current drugs. "This master regulator is normally turned off in adult cells, but it is very active during embryonic development and in all highly aggressive tumors studied to date. Our work shows for the first time that switching this gene off in aggressive cancer cells dramatically changes their appearance and behavior."

Genes in the master regulator's family, known as high mobility group or HMG genes, [are] essential for giving stem cells their special powers, and that's no coincidence. [Many] investigators consider cancer cells to be the evil twin of stem cells, because like stem cells, cancer cells must acquire special properties to enable the tumor to grow and metastasize or spread to different sites.

[Researchers applied techniques to block the HMGA1 gene] to several strains of human breast cancer cells in the laboratory, including the so-called triple negative cells - those that lack hormone receptors or HER2 gene amplification. Triple-negative breast cancer cells tend to behave aggressively and do not respond to many of our most effective breast cancer therapies. The team [found] that the cells with suppressed HMGA1 grow very slowly and fail to migrate or invade new territory like their HMGA1-expressing cousins. The team next implanted tumor cells into mice to see how the cells would behave. The tumors with HMGA1 grew and spread to other areas, such as the lungs, while those with blocked HMGA1 did not grow well in the breast tissue or spread to distant sites.

Link: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/making_cancer_less_cancerous


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