Oncogenes are genes that when mutated or expressed in high concentrations can cause normal cells to become cancerous. Now research from Tel Aviv University is demonstrating that Ras, one of the first oncogenes discovered, has the power to heal as well as harm.
Ph.D. student Oded Rechavi and his fellow researchers at Tel Aviv University's Department of Neurobiology have found that Ras has the ability to transfer from cancer cells into immune cells such as t-cells a transfer that may be the key to creating new drugs to fight cancerous tumors.
Prof. Yoel Kloog, dean of the university's Faculty of Life Sciences and a renowned expert in the field, is supervising the project. He and Rechavi published the discovery in the journal Public Library of Science One and a recent review about such cell-to-cell transferring of proteins in FEBS Letters.
Turning a cancer-causing protein against cancer itself
The idea that proteins can transfer between cells challenges the original theory of the cell, according to Rechavi. "All the energy flow, metabolism, and biochemistry of life is supposed to happen within the boundaries of an individual cell," he says. "Here we show that when cells in the immune system interact with other cells, proteins are exchanged without being secreted from the cell, and act in both the immune and original cells alike."
"When Ras transfers from one cell to another, it strengthens the immune system. The immune cell that adopts the mutated Ras gets activated and reacts against the cancerous cell that donated the Ras. This does not happen for advanced tumors, but if we could control the movement of Ras, we would have a better understanding of how immune cells react against cancer" and provide the scientific basis for an entirely new class of cancer drugs.
The researchers are working to discover the mechanisms by which the Ras protein is transferred, and initial results look promising
|Contact: George Hunka|
American Friends of Tel Aviv University