Forging New Paths

Researchers discover new path for colon cancer drug

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

New findings from Vanderbilt University Medical Center suggest a new approach for developing therapeutics that target and block a signaling a pathway implicated in sporadic (non-inherited) colon cancer.

Sporadic colon cancer is the second deadliest type of cancer in the developed world.

More than 90 percent of these cancers are caused by mutations that result in inappropriate activation of the Wnt (pronounced “wint”) signaling pathway. So far it’s been difficult to determine which molecular participants to inhibit because of the complexity of blocking the pathway.

“There's no obvious target in the pathway where we could say, 'OK, if we inhibit the activity of this protein, that will inhibit Wnt signaling,'” said Ethan Lee, M.D., Ph.D., lead investigator of the study and associate professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

Lee is also working on a study looking at the Wnt pathway’s role on cardiac repair after myocardial infarction (aka heart attack).

“Our original goal in developing (this) screening strategy was to find compounds that would tell us something about the biology of the Wnt pathway,” Lee said. “It's an added bonus that these compounds could be useful therapeutic agents in heart disease or cancer.”

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Review Date: 
November 22, 2010