Research uncovers possible new targets for attacking ovarian cancer

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Two studies led by scientists at MD Anderson open new areas of research that could potentially improve ovarian cancer treatment.

The discoveries published today in the journal Cancer Cell are preclinical - they employ laboratory experiments to better understand the molecular processes that drive formation and growth of cancer.  Both studies found previously unknown roles for two proteins, singling them out for further research and possible drug development.  

In the August edition's featured article, Robert C. Bast Jr., M.D., vice president for translational research and professor of experimental therapeutics, and colleagues show that the protein SIK2 plays a vital role in mitosis, or cell division.  The team  demonstrated in a mouse model that inhibiting SIK2 makes ovarian cancer more susceptible to the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel, one of a group of drugs that attack cancer cells by blocking their division.   

Overabundance of the protein occurs in 30 percent of human ovarian cancer cases and is associated with advanced disease.  

Another article by Anil Sood, M.D., professor in the departments of Cancer Biology and Gynecologic Oncology, and colleagues reports that the protein EZH2 fuels the formation of blood vessels that feed ovarian cancer by shutting down genes that block the birth of new blood vessels -- angioigenesis. Depleting EZH2 in the tumor and in blood vessel cells with an engineered nanoparticle steeply reduced the size of tumors in a mouse model of the disease.

An analysis of 180 ovarian cancer tumors showed that patients with the protein overexpressed in either their tumor or its associated blood vessels survived about one third as long as those without abundant EZH2.

Both teams are following up on their initial findings.

Novel Role: EZH2 Boosts Creation of Ovarian Cancer Blood Vessels

Researchers Identify Potential New Target for Ovarian Cancer

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