A protein critical in heart development may also play a part in colon cancer progression.
Research led by investigators from Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and the Vanderbilt Eye Institute suggests that the protein BVES (blood vessel endocardial substance) which also is key in regulating corneal cells may be a therapeutic target for halting colon cancer metastasis.
The study, appearing in the October issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, further suggests that BVES may be important more broadly in many, or most, epithelial cancers.
About 85 percent of cancers originate in epithelial cells that form the body's external and internal linings (such as the skin and the lining of the gastrointestinal tract).
However, the main clinical concern is not the primary tumor, but the potential for that tumor to leave its tissue of origin and spread throughout the body (a process called "metastasis").
A critical step in metastatic progression of epithelial cancers happens when epithelial cells "revert" to a less differentiated state a process called "epithelial-mesenchymal transition" or EMT.
Ophthalmologist Min Chang, M.D., studies the healing process in the cornea, perhaps the most highly regulated epithelium in the body. From collaborative studies with David Bader, Ph.D., who discovered BVES and showed its importance in heart development, Chang found that BVES was highly expressed and regulated in corneal cells.
When BVES is disrupted in corneal cells, they become disorganized, almost "cancer-like," noted Chang, an assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and co-author on the study.
Chang then brought these findings to the attention of colleague Christopher Williams, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology and co-author on the study.
"When he described these cells, it sounded a lot like the way cancer cells looked when they were unde
|Contact: Melissa Marino|
Vanderbilt University Medical Center