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Worm studies shed light on human cancers
Date:4/21/2011

MADISON -- Research in the worm is shedding light on a protein associated with a number of different human cancers, and may point to a highly targeted way to treat them.

University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists were studying a worm protein called TFG-1, which is present in many cell types but whose exact role had never been understood. The scientists discovered that the protein controls key aspects of the movement, or secretion, of growth factors out of cells.

"TFG-1 has never been implicated in the secretory process before," says Dr. Anjon Audhya, an assistant professor of biomolecular chemistry in the School of Medicine and Public Health. "It turns out that humans carry a very similar protein, and we think it plays the same role in humans as in worms."

Reviewing the scientific literature, the researchers found that the gene encoding TFG in humans is fused to at least three other genes implicated in anaplastic large cell lymphoma, papillary thyroid carcinoma and extraskeletal chondrosarcoma. The fusions occur when two broken or rearranged pieces of DNA combine to form a "chimeric" gene with completely distinct properties.

Audhya's studies of TFG-1 in the worm led him to develop a model that explains how TFG fusions may stimulate cancer in humans. As reported in the current issue of Nature Cell Biology (Advanced Online Publication), he proposes that abnormal levels of growth factor secretion may produce a rich micro-environment that helps tumors form and thrive. "We think certain properties of TFG lead it to be a very effective precursor oncogene," he says.

Normally, a growth factor primed to leave a cell is encompassed by a sac, or vesicle, and then transported from one structure inside the cell to anotherendoplasmic reticulum (ER) to Golgibefore it leaves the cell and discharges into the extracellular space.

Through their genetic studies, the Wisconsin researchers found
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Contact: Dian Land
dj.land@hosp.wisc.edu
608-261-1034
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

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