MAR 11, 2015 02:42 PM PDT

Understanding of Cancer Cell Enzyme Flipped on its Head

Researchers from Manchester, working with scientists in California, have found that certain molecules long thought to promote cancer growth, in fact suppress tumors, suggesting that therapeutic approaches should aim to restore, rather than block, their activity.

The protein kinase C (PKC) family of molecules are enzymes that facilitate a range of cellular processes, including cell survival, proliferation, migration and death. In the 1980s it was found that PKCs were activated by cancer-causing phorbol esters, and led to the conclusion that PKCs themselves induced the development of tumors.

However, attempts to develop new treatments that prevent tumor cell growth by blocking the activity of PKCs have had little success. A recent study involving Manchester scientists, the findings of which have been published in the journal Cell, has explored the effect of mutations in PKC on tumor growth.

Dr John Brognard, from the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute at The University of Manchester - part of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre - said: "Despite phorbol esters being known to cause cancers, we've seen frustratingly little progress when targeting PKCs to stop tumor growth."

The Manchester group collaborated with a team from the University of California, San Diego, to analyse PKC mutations in human cancer cells. They found that most were ‘loss of function' mutations, meaning that the genetic changes stopped PKC from working.

When they corrected these mutations in bowel cancer cells, they saw a reduction in tumor growth, meaning that contrary to our previous understanding, PKC normally acts to block cancer.

"Clinical trials have so far been working on the incorrect assumption that PKC enzymes cause cancer growth. This new insight from our studies has turned current thinking on its head. Looking ahead, instead of blocking PKC activity, new therapies should instead be targeting mechanisms to restore its activity," added Dr Brognard.

Source: University of Manchester
About the Author
  • Ilene Schneider is the owner of Schneider the Writer, a firm that provides communications for health care, high technology and service enterprises. Her specialties include public relations, media relations, advertising, journalistic writing, editing, grant writing and corporate creativity consulting services. Prior to starting her own business in 1985, Ilene was editor of the Cleveland edition of TV Guide, associate editor of School Product News (Penton Publishing) and senior public relations representative at Beckman Instruments, Inc. She was profiled in a book, How to Open and Operate a Home-Based Writing Business and listed in Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in Advertising and Who's Who in Media and Communications. She was the recipient of the Women in Communications, Inc. Clarion Award in advertising. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ilene and her family have lived in Irvine, California, since 1978.
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