Navigation Links
TCD scientists discover that self-eating cells safeguard against cancer

Scientists at Trinity College Dublin have made an important discovery concerning how fledgling cancer cells self-destruct, which has the potential of impacting on future cancer therapies. The Trinity research group, led by Smurfit Professor of Medical Genetics, Professor Seamus Martin and funded by Science Foundation Ireland, has just published their findings in the internationally renowned journal, Molecular Cell.

Professor Martin's team has discovered how a process called 'autophagy' which literally means 'self-eating' plays an important role in safeguarding against the development of cancer. The discovery highlights an unexpected role for a killer protein, called Noxa, in triggering the self-eating process that leads cells in the early stages of cancer to literally eat themselves to death.

Normally, the process of autophagy is switched on when cells experience periods of starvation and in this context is beneficial by helping to keep the 'wolf from the door' until food reappears on the menu. However, the Martin laboratory has discovered that mutations in a gene called Ras, which is involved in approximately 30% of human cancers, triggers excessive autophagy leading to auto-destruction of the fledgling tumour cell. Mutant Ras was found to switch cells into the self-eating mode by ramping up the production of Noxa. The study suggests that autophagy represents an important natural safeguard against cancer development.

Importantly, the Trinity team also discovered that members of the Bcl-2 gene family could override this process, switching off the self-eating process and leading to survival of cancerous cells. This suggests that drugs targeting Bcl-2 might reactivate the natural self-destruction pathway and help to shrink tumours. The fact that mutant Ras triggers self-destruction of cells carrying this gene also helps to explain why the emergence of fully cancerous cells is relatively rare when we consider that the average human makes hundreds of billions of cells over the course of their lifetime.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Martin stated: "This discovery is an important step forward in our understanding of how cells in the early stages of cancer hit the autodestruct button and suggests new ways in which we may be able to re-activate this process in cancers that do manage to establish. This breakthrough has led directly from investment in research made by the Irish state over the past 10 years through important initiatives such as the establishment of Science Foundation Ireland."

The work was carried out in the Molecular Cell Biology Laboratory at TCD's School of Genetics and Microbiology by the research team led by Professor Martin and funded primarily through a major award from Science Foundation Ireland. The TCD research team is internationally recognised for its work on cell death control in cancer and immunity.


Contact: Professor Seamus Martin
Trinity College Dublin

Related biology news :

1. MIT scientists say ocean currents cause microbes to filter light
2. Even in a crowd, you remain unique, UCLA life scientists report
3. Gender gap: Selection bias snubs scholarly achievements of female scientists
4. Brown scientists to discuss best practices for the oceans
5. Scientists discover agaves tremendous potential as new bioenergy feedstock
6. University of Miami scientists find new way to estimate global rainfall and track ocean pollution
7. Scientists discover cell of origin for childhood muscle cancer
8. Choosing your neighbors: MBL scientists see how microbes relate in space
9. Hershey scientists improve methods for analysis of healthful cocoa compounds
10. UCR scientists to explore new genetic tools in mosquito research: Transposable elements
11. Giant rats lead scientists to ancient face carvings
Post Your Comments:
(Date:3/31/2016)... 31, 2016  Genomics firm Nabsys has completed a ... Barrett Bready , M.D., who returned to the company ... technical leadership team, including Chief Technology Officer, John ... Steve Nurnberg and Vice President of Software and Informatics, ... Dr. Bready served as CEO of Nabsys ...
(Date:3/23/2016)... Massachusetts , March 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... im Interesse erhöhter Sicherheit Gesichts- und Stimmerkennung ... Xura, Inc. (NASDAQ: MESG ), ... bekannt, dass das Unternehmen mit SpeechPro zusammenarbeitet, ... aus der Finanzdienstleistungsbranche, wird die Möglichkeit angeboten, ...
(Date:3/22/2016)... and SANDY, Utah , ... which operates the highest sample volume laboratory in ... Genomics and UNIConnect, leaders in clinical sequencing informatics and ... launch of a project to establish the informatics infrastructure ... NSO has been contracted by the Ontario ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... - BIOREM Inc. (TSX-V: BRM) ("Biorem" or "the Company") announces ... Clean Technology Fund I, LP and Clean Technology Fund ... venture capital funds which together hold approximately 59% of ... as converted basis), that they have entered into an ... in Biorem to TUS Holdings Co. Ltd. ("TUS") ( ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... Newly created 4Sight Medical ... to the healthcare market. The company's primary focus is on new product introductions, ... strategies that are necessary to help companies efficiently bring their products to market. ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... , June 24, 2016  Regular discussions on a range ... place between the two entities said Poloz. Speaking ... Ottawa , he pointed to the country,s inflation ... federal government. "In ... "Both institutions have common economic goals, why not sit down ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 23, 2016 , ... Mosio, a leader in clinical research ... Recruitment and Retention Tips.” Partnering with experienced clinical research professionals, Mosio revisits the ... tools, and strategies for clinical researchers. , “The landscape of how patients receive ...
Breaking Biology Technology: