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Mayo researchers identify dangerous 'two-faced' protein crucial to breast cancer spread and growth
Date:11/17/2008

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Two critical properties of cancer cells are their ability to divide without restraint and to spread away from the primary tumor to establish new tumor sites. Now, researchers from the Mayo Clinic campus in Florida have found a protein they say acts as a deadly master switch, both freeing cancer cells from a tumor while ramping up new growth.

This is potentially good news, say the researchers, who published their study in the Nov.17 issue of the Journal of Cell Biology. If this protein known as p120 catenin is that powerful, it may be possible to turn the tables on cancer by designing an agent that would suppress it.

"We believe p120 could be an excellent target for therapy," says the study's lead investigator, Panos Anastasiadis, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic cancer researcher. "Most cancer therapies target cancer growth, but miss migrating cancer cells that eventually re-establish the tumor, often at distant sites. Our best hope for long-term cancer therapy is to target both cancer cell growth and tumor spread, or metastasis.

"An anti-p120 agent could provide a much-needed double whammy stop cancer spread and shut down growth at the same time."

Dr. Anastasiadis adds that while the discovery was made in breast cancer cells, it has relevance to a number of cancers, including those of the lung, kidneys, and skin, in which p120 plays a role. "These findings have significant implications for our understanding of tumor biology and for improving cancer treatment," he says.

This study expands upon a body of research at the Mayo Clinic campus that is uniquely devoted to understanding, and then halting, cancer metastasis. Dr. Anastasiadis and his collaborators, including study co-author Edith Perez, M.D., a Mayo Clinic oncologist in the Breast Cancer Program, had earlier discovered that p120 activity is necessary if cancer is to spread. But they did not know about its role in growth promotion until this
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Contact: Paul Scotti
scotti.paul@mayo.edu
904-953-2299
Mayo Clinic
Source:Eurekalert

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