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UCLA cancer researchers discover new signaling pathway that controls cell development and cancer
Date:9/23/2010

Researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have discovered a new cell signaling pathway that controls cell growth and development, a pathway that, when defective, helps promote the formation of several major forms of human cancer, including lymphoma and leukemia.

The new pathway, part of a global DNA damage response, turns off 136 genes, including some that have are known to cause cancer because, unchecked, they can promote aberrant cell division.

"It's important to make sure this pathway works correctly, because it prevents cells from dividing excessively" said Dr. Michael Teitell, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher and senior author of the study. "When this pathway is defective, cancers can happen."

The study appears in the Sept. 24, 2010 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Molecular Cell.

A widely used oral diabetes drug, Metformin, is known to activate the identified pathway and could possibly be protective against cancer in certain pathway defects. It's been shown through epidemiological studies, Teitell said, that diabetes patients on Metformin have lower incidences of lymphoma and leukemia, possibly because the drug is regulating pathway operation.

Additionally, new therapies that target the pathway could be developed to correct newly identified defects, thereby blocking the formation of cancer.

The study also revealed an unknown DNA damage response outcome. It is generally agreed that one of three things happen to cells in response to DNA damage cells are temporarily arrested from growing so the damage can be repaired, cells go quiet and permanently stop dividing so they don't pass on the DNA damage, or cells simply die, a process known as apoptosis.

Teitell's study uncovered a fourth option - the DNA damage itself drives less mature cells to develop into more mature cells, in this case into antibody-secreting plasma cells, by
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Contact: Kim Irwin
kirwin@mednet.ucla.edu
310-206-2805
University of California -- Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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