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Tumor suppressor acts as oncogene in some cancers, say Mayo Clinic researchers
Date:10/27/2010

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Researchers at Mayo Clinic in Florida have found that a molecule long believed to be a beneficial tumor suppressor and thus a potential cancer drug target appears to act as an oncogene in some lethal brain tumors.

The protein, epithelial cadherin (E-cadherin), is known for its ability to keep cancer cells glued together, preventing them from breaking away and metastasizing. But, based on their findings, published online in PLoS ONE, the scientists suggest E-cadherin can also function as an oncogene in some cancers. An oncogene helps push cancer development and growth.

They say the findings could explain recent, puzzling observations about E-cadherin expression in breast cancer, for example. While loss of E-cadherin is generally considered a harbinger of metastasis, researchers have also found that most breast cancer that has spread retains E-cadherin expression. Ovarian tumors also have been paradoxically found to produce more and more E-cadherin as they grow.

"This surprising finding should compel us all to shift our thinking about E-cadherin," says the study's lead investigator, cancer biologist Panos Z. Anastasiadis, Ph.D. "Up to now, we have all thought that if a tumor loses E-cadherin function, that represents a movement toward metastasis. That makes sense because 50 percent of cancers don't express E-cadherin and they are linked to a worse prognosis.

"But now it appears that E-cadherin expression in a tumor could be responsible for cells growing out of control if the protein is not functioning as it should be."

Dr. Anastasiadis focuses his research on the biological factors involved in cancer metastasis. In this study, he and a research t
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Contact: Kevin Punsky
punsky.kevin@mayo.edu
904-953-2299
Mayo Clinic
Source:Eurekalert

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