Israeli researchers have identified an important procedure in the development of cancer, which may lead to new ways of treatment and prevention of the disease. During the study, done at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, researchers identified an enzyme that is responsible for triggering aggressive growth in breast cancer cells.
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Enzymes are proteins consisting of amino acids. The specific protein identified by the researchers, called S6K1, has two versions: “long” (consisting of over 500 amino acids) and “short” (consisting of 300 amino acids). The study showed that it’s the shorter version that is an indication of accelerated growth – turning normal cells into cancerous.
The study, conducted by Ph.D. student Vered Ben Hur in the lab of Dr. Rotem Karni at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada of the Hebrew University, was published in the online edition of Cell Reports.
Could be used for diagnostics and for treatment
The researchers found that breast cancer cells start to produce shorter versions of this enzyme and that these shorter versions transmit signals ordering the cells to grow, proliferate, survive and invade other tissues. On the other hand, the researchers found that the long form of this protein acts as a tumor suppressor that protects normal cells from becoming cancerous.
There are several medical implications emanating from the research, say the researchers. One of them is the use of the newly discovered short forms of S6K1 as a diagnostic marker for the detection of breast cancer. Several new anticancer drugs, which have entered the clinic recently, can inhibit the cancerous activity of the short forms of S6K1. Thus, the detection of these new forms can predict the efficacy of these drugs to treat cancer patients.
These implications were recently submitted as a patent application by Yissum, the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University. Another future application will be to ”reverse” the alternative splicing of S6K1 in cancer cells back to the normal situation as a novel anti-cancer therapy. The research group of Dr. Karni is actively engaged in this effort.
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