Cancer's "Cellular Orchestra Conductor"

Gliomas and pancreatic cancer host CPEB4 protein

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Changes in cell biology are at the heart of cancer. Specifically, when our genes go off key, the cacophony of cancer blares. Scientists are now learning how these genes are reprogrammed.

Medical researchers in Spain have revealed the inner workings of a protein that turns healthy cells into cancerous ones. They describe this molecule CPEB4 as a "cellular orchestra conductor." Blocking this protein might blunt the growth of a number of cancers.

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Researchers Raúl Méndez, ICREA Research Professor at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and Pilar Navarro at the IMIM (Institut de Recerca Hospital del Mar, Barcelona) discovered that CPEB4 turns on hundreds of genes that play critical roles in the progression of pancreatic and brain cancer and potentially other types of tumors.

Investigators examined pancreas and brain tissue and found that CPEB4 is not present in healthy cells. The protein that causes chaos is seen only in tumor cells.

So inhibiting this protein could become an important targeted therapy for treating pancreatic, brain and other cancers.

In experiments with mice that had been injected with human cancer cells, the researchers demonstrated that decreasing the cells' CEPB4 levels can reduce the size of tumors by up to 80 percent.

These findings could apply to other forms of cancer. "Given the effects observed in the tumors examined and the type of genes regulated by this mechanism, it is expected to be involved in many other types of cancer," the authors wrote.

This work could create sound new ways for treating the orchestra of diseases that is cancer.

This research was published in the December, 2011 issue of Nature Medicine.

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Review Date: 
January 3, 2012
Last Updated:
January 3, 2012