Re-engineering a protein that helps prevent tumours spreading and growing has created a potentially powerful therapy for people with many different types of cancer. In a study published in the first issue of EMBO Molecular Medicine, Canadian researchers modified the tumour inhibiting protein, von Hippel-Lindau (VHL), and demonstrated that it could suppress tumour growth in mice.
When solid tumours grow they often have relatively poor and disorganised blood supplies. As a result, various regions including the centre of the tumour have low levels of oxygen and are said to be hypoxic. Cells in these hypoxic areas produce hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) that helps them carry on growing. Consequently HIF is associated with aggressiveness in some of the most common types of cancer, including prostate, breast, colon and lung cancer. Under normal conditions VHL degrades HIF, but VHL is deactivated when oxygen levels are low. So, in hypoxic regions of a tumour, just where VHL is needed to inhibit cancer, it is ineffective.
The researchers, therefore, created a new version of VHL that does not stop working when oxygen is scarce. Introducing this newly engineered version of VHL into mice that had kidney tumours dramatically reduced levels of HIF, caused tumours to regress and limited the formation of new blood vessels within the tumours.
"We have genetically removed the Achilles' heel of VHL to permit unrestricted destruction of HIF," says lead researcher Professor Michael Ohh, who works in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. "The level of HIF is usually very high under conditions of low oxygen, but when we put in our bioengineered VHL its levels go right down to a level that would be comparable to that in normal oxygen levels."
Their findings could have implications for any type of cancer in which HIF plays a role. "We used kidney cancer as a model because it is one of the most resistant tumours to conventional radiation and chemotherapy, but our findings provide a novel concept that could potentially serve as a foundation for smarter anti-cancer strategy for a wide variety of cancers," says Ohh.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Why I’ll Talk Policy With Climate Change Deniers But Not Science
- Today's Global Warming Is Nothing Special
- There Was No 'Paleo Diet' - Ancient People Ate What They Had
- Worldwide, Life Expectancy Has Gone Up Over 6 Years Since 1990
- Curiosity Detects Spike In Methane, And Other Organic Molecules, On Mars
- HIP 116454b Shows That Despite Malfunction, Kepler Can Still Find Planets
- Time To Stop Thinking Of Video Games As Just 'Software'
- "Solution aversion is very real. Talking about solutions which the climate skeptics could live with..."
- "For the avoidance of doubt, as judges are wont to say, it was Buckminster Fuller himself who first..."
- "Thank you for including the Four Myths of Nature. It is very helpful to keep these in mind when..."
- "No, I was meaning the ArcticIndex of /arctic/rediscover/dmi_sea_ice_maps http://docs.lib.noaa.gov/rescue/mwr/050/mwr..."
- "The big problem they have now in making their statements is credibility - while they can claim..."
- People with blood groups A, B and AB at higher risk of type 2 diabetes than group O
- Older kidney donors with hypertension may have good kidney health following donation
- High socioeconomic status increases discrimination, depression risk in black young adults
- Research shows E.B. White was right in Charlotte's Web
- Ability to balance on 1 leg may reflect brain health and stroke risk