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The stress and cancer link: 'Master switch' stress gene enables cancer's spread
Date:8/22/2013

dditional studies bear out these results, Hai said. In the meantime, she said the results provide important insights into how cells in a tumor use their signaling power to coopt the rest of the body into aiding cancer's survival and movement to distant organs.

The research is published in a recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Hai, a member in the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, has studied ATF3 in cancer cells for years. When she had a chance to examine human samples from about 300 breast-cancer patients, she was stunned to find that the expression of ATF3 gene in certain immune-system cells was associated with worse cancer outcomes in this group of patients. ATF3 in cancer cells showed no such association.

To test that clinical data, she and colleagues conducted two rounds of studies in mice. The researchers first injected breast cancer cells into two groups: normal mice and mice that cannot express ATF3 in any cells. The cancer in normal mice metastasized to the lungs far more rapidly and extensively than did cancer in the mice lacking ATF3. In the second round of experiments, they used genetically altered mice that could not express ATF3 in a group of immune system cells called myeloid cells, and the results were similar.

"The cancer cells were always the same, but we had different hosts. The primary tumors were similar in size, but only in the host that can express ATF3 the stress gene did the cancer cells metastasize efficiently," Hai said. "This suggests that the host stress response can help cancer to metastasize.

"If the body is in perfect balance, there isn't much of a problem. When the body gets stressed, that changes the immune system. And the immune system is a double-edged sword," she said.

In general, when cancer cells first appear, the immune system recognizes them as foreign and various immune cells travel to the site to attack them. Early on in cance
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Contact: Tsonwin Hai
Hai.2@osu.edu
614-292-2910
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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